Four-time champions Pakistan fought valiantly before going down to a narrow 0-1 defeat against Germany in their opening Pool D match of the Hockey World Cup in Bhuvneshwar on Saturday.
Given the manner in which they arrived at the subcontinent for the elite tournament, the result – despite the defeat— was a happy start by the former champions. Pakistan’s aspirations to win their fifth title and first since 1994 took a major jolt after lack of funds and refusal from the Indian embassy to provide visas nearly ended their campaign even before it could begin.
Currently ranked 13th the world and having the previous World Cup, Pakistan’s encounter against the Olympic bronze medallist Germany, was always going to be difficult. Marco Milt
The world no.6 German team nearly took the lead in the third minute when Benedikt Furk fired a Christopher Ruhr pass but Pakistan goalkeeper Imran Butt pulled off a brilliant save despite being wrong-footed following a deflection. Butt would go on to make several brilliant saves to keep his side alive.
His efforts combined with a sturdy defence helped Pakistan keep Germany on the bay for the opening 30 minutes – two quarters – during which Germany used the flanks mainly but the Asian neighbours did well to keep the match limited to a goalless streak.
The second half saw both the teams go out in search of a goal, which eventually helped Germany open the resolute Pakistani defence. Six minutes after the break, the two-time champions broke the deadlock. Miltkau pushed the ball past an onrushing Butt from a Niklas Wellen pass to put Germany ahead.
Two minutes later Pakistan had their best opportunity when Muhammad Zubair found himself in an open situation from an Ammad Butt pass but Zubair failed to find the target.
Germany were certainly the better team and earned the only penalty corner of the match in the 41st minute which resulted to nothing. Six minutes from the hooter, Miltkau scored again but Pakistan protested the goal and it was eventually cancelled after replays showed that the ball had hit a German player’s legs before rolling into the net.
Pakistan next takes on Malaysia on December 5, while Germany will square off up against the Netherlands.