Pakistan pay the price for poor defending in Junior World Cup

KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan had high hopes for the Junior World Cup (JWC), with the help of eight players boasting senior team experience.

However, the Green Shirts were let down by poor defending.

They were inconsistent defensively, conceding soft goals from the quarter-finals.

The 1979 champions scored only 18 goals and conceded 21 times.

On Saturday, Pakistan lost 6-3 to former champions Argentina in the seventh play-off match at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil.

Coach Roelant Oltmans said: "Our team played their best hockey against the Netherlands, Belgium, and New Zealand to finish second in the group.

"We didn't concede many goals in the group matches. However, despite netting 10 goals in three knockout stage matches, we let in 17 goals.

"If we were defensively better, we could have performed better in the tournament."

In the group stage, Oltmans' side drew 3-3 with the Netherlands, outplayed New Zealand 4-0 and drew 1-1 with Belgium.

In the quarter-finals, Pakistan lost 4-2 to Spain and 7-5 in the fifth placing match.

"Against Belgium, our defence was outstanding. However, we collapsed from the quarter-finals.

"This was compounded by the absence of our top-choice goalkeeper, Ali Raza, who suffered a hamstring injury and did not play in the knockout stage."

Commenting on the defeat to Argentina, the Dutchman said: "We were poor defensively again.

"My players must improve their basics, even though some have played for the senior team.

"We lose ball possession quite easily, and our turnovers are not good. There are things we need to work on ahead of future tournaments.

"However, I don't blame my players; they are still a work in progress. The players need to be creative, and their fitness level needs to be improved," said Oltmans.

The coach indicated he might take charge of the Pakistan senior team, although former World Cup-winner Shahbaz Ahmed is linked to the job ahead of next year's Olympic qualifiers in Oman.

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