Pakistan came into the game hopeful and optimistic. The Netherlands left them bruised and battered.
A day after stunning the hosts with a 4-4 draw in the first leg of their Olympic qualifier, Pakistan came crashing down to earth on Sunday as the Netherlands thrashed them 6-1 to seal a 10-5 aggregate victory and punch their tickets to Tokyo for next year’s Games.
Pakistan hockey: From champions to qualifiers
The Dutch were devastating on Sunday, racing into a 4-0 lead at halftime with Mink van der Weerden scoring twice and Bjorn Kellerman and Mirco Pruijser both firing home glorious backhand efforts.
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Terrance Pieters and Jip Janssen then scored in the space of four minutes in the third quarter to effectively end the contest altogether before Rizwan Ali’s drag-flick conversion gave Pakistan a consolation goal seven minutes from time.
“It is a bad day, we have missed out on the Olympics,” said Pakistan’s Rashid Mehmood, as the three-time Olympic champions missed out on reaching the Games for a second successive time.
“We couldn’t make it [happen] in the second game. The Dutch team defended very well in the game today and we didn’t start very well, we made a lot of mistakes. In the first half they took advantage of that. We couldn’t match their pace in the first half.”
Kellerman has scored with a sensational backhand strike on Saturday and he was at it again on Sunday. Robbert Kemperman cut in from the right before finding Kellerman on the left, who smashed a stunning backhand strike into the bottom right corner from an ever-narrowing angle to give the Netherlands a ninth-minute lead.
Van der Weerden, who scored twice on Saturday including the last-gasp leveller for the Dutch, doubled their advantage in the 17th, firing in a penalty stroke after after a rapid attack was cynically cut short by the Pakistani defence.
It was 3-0 five minutes later with Pruijser breaking into the circle and finishing clinically before Van der Weerden’s powerful drag-flick all but extinguished Pakistan’s hopes in the 28th.
“I think the tempo we played today was a lot better, and I think that made the difference,” said Van der Weerden. “Our tempo on the ball was a lot better, there was a lot more energy and that is a big difference. It means a lot [to qualify for the Olympics]. It is the event that we all play for. Winning really means a lot.”
Pakistan started brightly in the second half but failed to test the Dutch defence. Pieters struck a field goal in the 39th and it was soon followed by Janssen’s penalty corner conversion. Rizwan got Pakistan on the scoresheet but it was too little, too late.
Pakistan’s performance was totally opposite to the one 24 hours earlier.
Netherlands had started the tie as strong favourites but Pakistan took the lead on Saturday in the fifth minute through a drag-flick from Mubashar Ali.
Van der Weerden pulled the Dutch level when he slotted home a penalty stroke in the 20th minute and Kellerman scored in the very next minute to give the hosts the lead.
Ali Ghazanfar’s penalty corner conversion in the 25th minute saw the teams go into half-time tied 2-2.
Pakistan stepped on the gas in the second half and in the 38th minute, Rizwan scored from a penalty corner to give Pakistan the lead but Kepperman’s field goal in the 52nd levelled the game again.
Mubashar Ali though he’d scored the winner for Pakistan in the 58th but Van der Weerden’s drag-flick snatched a draw for the Dutch.
The result, though, was a big boost for Pakistan who had come into the game following 6-1 and 6-2 thrashings at the hands of Germany in their warm-up matches for the Olympic qualifier.
Unfortunately for them, though, they couldn’t take that form into the second game.
Pakistan won Olympic golds in 1960, 1968 and 1984 but they have fallen on hard times recently and haven’t medalled since claiming bronze at the 1992 Games in Barcelona. They now have to build again towards the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2019