Pakistan to clash with Belgium in Champions Trophy opener

Bhubaneswar: Aiming to better their third-place finish in the last edition of the Champions Trophy hockey tournament, Pakistan will take on Belgium in the opening match at Kalinga Stadium, here tomorrow.

Clubbed in Pool A alongside holders Australia, Belgium and England, the Men in Green will also be looking to climb up the rankings ladder after lying 11th in the FIH charts.

With the ‘Green Shirts’ having a medal haul of 16 in Champions Trophy, Pakistan clinched a bronze in the 2012 edition after defeating India 3-2 in a high voltage medal game.

The team has an outstanding record of winning gold in the first and the second season of the Champions Trophy out of the total three.

The team also adds to its name the three gold medal finishes in Olympics and four gold wins in the World Cup.

Whereas, the Red Lions presently standing at the 4th position in the FIH ranking, it took the fifth place over Germany in the last season played in Melbourne.

With the fifth place finish in the London Olympics, the 2012 Champions Trophy and this year’s World Cup, they have done well to confirm their growing conviction that they are among the leading hockey nations.

The two teams faced each other in the previous season of the Champions Trophy where Pakistan blanked Belgium with a score of 2-0.

As both the teams are coming out to be strong contenders not leaving any chance to utilise their practice sessions, they are expecting to finish the tournament on a winning note to go a step further.

Speaking on tomorrow’s match against Belgium, Captain Muhammad Imran said, “While tomorrow’s clash will be a tough one keeping in mind that Beligium has been playing good hockey recently, this still will not deter us from playing as a unit and aiming for a win. We have experienced players in our team and we will utilise this to our benefit in this tournament.”

Speaking on the team’s opening match, Belgium coach Jeroen Delmee said, “Pakistan is a good competition and we are looking forward to start with a win. While the team is geared up for the tournament, we are putting in our best efforts in overcoming our challenges. We certainly aim to get a medal finish in this tournament.”

Commenting on the team’s preparation ahead of the first match, Belgium captain Dohmen John-John said, “We have been improving our game and we have some steady progress in few areas. I am sure it’s going to be an exciting opening match against Pakistan. I wish the team performs with enthusiasms which makes possible for us to pull off a win against them.”