Beijing, Aug 9 (UNI) India may not have been among the medal winners in the Olympics or World Cup for last two and half decades but even the hardened cynics admit that Hockey without India in the Olympiad lacks fizz and excitement.
But the fact remains that when the Hockey competition gets going in the 29th Olympics Games here tomorrow, India will not be there, for the first time in Games history.
However, can Pakistan, South Korea or even China spearhead Asian challenge in the formidable field which includes defending champion Australia, strong contenders Germany, Holland and Spain? India in recent past has never spearheaded Asian challenge but their presence used to add to nostalgia and sentimental value.
For Indian fans, hockey may not hold much charm here but the show must go on and for the fans of 12 participating teams it is going to be enthralling competition.
The three time gold medal winner Pakistan is worried as their forwards are not just clicking.
''We have played two friendly matches and scored three goals all through penalty corners, forwards have failed to score sand that is a slightly worrying factor,'' Pakistan captain Zeeshan Ashraf told UNI.
Zeeshan Ashraf and coaches, Zakauddin and Naveed Alam are however confident that Pakistan will be able to turn the corner.
The seasoned Rehan Butt and Shakeel Abbasi will lead the frontline with mid-fielder Saqlain along with right half Mohd Javed will providing them good support.
The defence will be marshalled by Imran Warsi, who also is their main penalty corner expert along with Zeeshan Ashraf while experienced Salman Akbar is in the goal.
Pakistan will take on Britain, who knocked India out of the Olympics at the Santiago qualifier in their opening match on August 11.
Winner of the gold in 1988 Seoul Olympics, Britain has the capacity to dent and unsettle any side.
The consistent Ben Hawkes and penalty corner converter Richard Mantel are the main dangers for its opponents.
Asian power house, South Korea has not been doing very well recently having lost to India in the Asia Cup and then finishing last at the Champions Trophy in Rotterdam.
However, the Willy Koreans can not be taken lightly as they have in their ranks penalty corner expert Jang Jong Hyun and Yew Woon Koon.
They are the dark horse capable of creating an upset. They showed their prowess in Sydney in 2000, where they finished runners up against all odds.
More UNI HSB RKM PM1605