Lahore, Jul 25 (UNI) National hockey coach Khawaja Zakauddin is optimistic of Pakistan's chances in the Beijing Olympics next month.
''No doubt Olympics is always the toughest competition, but I am very hopeful,'' Zakauddin told the 'Daily Times'.
''It (Olympics) has the aura, it has the grandeur and it demands both physical and psychological perseverance. Our boys must retain these two factors during two weeks of grueling and gladiatorial contests. Olympics exert tremendous pressure on players' psyche whether they play against a strong or a weak outfit,'' he added.
Zakauddin is satisfied with Pakistan's preparations over the past year.
''We have worked very hard for the last one year, I mean since I have been given the responsibility and I must say here, the boys have responded very positive. Our five-match series in China, Azlan Shah Cup, an extensive European tour and finally 4-Nation tournament in Ireland were the sequence of our ultimate goal - the Olympics,'' he said. ''Let me say that during the last six months we did try many combinations, different variations in our tactical approach which of course included specialisation on penalty corner conversion.'' Describing the Pakistan team as a ''well-balanced side'' the coach said,'After all the trials and errors, finally we have succeeded in having a well-balanced side. It's a combination of experience and youth, the result of our last six months struggle.
In Zeeshan Ashraf, Muhammad Imran and Imran Warsi, we posses a very solid defense and that is the least worrisome for me while they are backed up by good goalkeeping stuff from Salman Akbar and Nasir Ahmad.
''Any success we will have, depends on how the midfield will react to different situations. In fact it has a demanding dual job to perform, keep the bulwark-like defence and streamline the attacking strategy.'' Zakauddin is confident that the forwards will live up to the challenge in Beijing.
''In Waqas Sharif and Abbas Haider, we have two very fast, skillful and penetrative wingers. And supported by experienced forwards Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi, Pakistan's attack can be deadly in its execution,'' he maintained.
''Rehan and Shakeel are particularly dangerous in counter-attack.
Strikers Muhammad Zubair, Waqas Akbar and the youthful Shafqat Rasool posses all the ingredients, primordial to fight for the Olympic crown.'' UNI XC AB RKM KP1735