Pakistan leave for France seeking World Cup spot

KARACHI: Pakistan’s hockey squad left for France early Sunday for a last ditch attempt to make it to the World Cup through the qualifiers.

The six-team event will be held at Lille, France from October 31 to November 8 and only the winners will get a berth to next year’s World Cup in New Delhi, India.

Nine teams have already qualified for the World Cup with three berths to be filled through qualifying rounds. Two more qualifying rounds will be played later next month.

Pakistan has never missed a World Cup since the event’s launch in 1971 but have found themselves in a tight spot.

‘Our hockey revival depends on this event,’ coach Shahid Ali Khan said.

‘Every player is determined to play for history, for the sake of Pakistan hockey.’

Since winning the 1994 World Cup in Australia, Pakistan’s field hockey has declined. They have not won the Asian title since winning the Asian Games in China 19 years ago.

Pakistan, three-time Olympic gold medal winner, finished a poor eighth at Beijing Games last year — their worst ever showing in the Olympics.

They have also missed out on the six-nation Champions Trophy in 2008 and 2009 — to be held in Australia next month.

Pakistan open their campaign with a match against Italy on October 31 and will also take on hosts France as well as Russia, Japan and Poland. The top two teams in the league play the final on November 8.

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