Pakistan under pressure at Asian Champions Trophy

Doha, Dec 19 (IANS) Pakistan hockey captain Muhammed Imran feels his team was under pressure to win the Asian Champions Trophy starting Dec 20 following their bronze medal finish at the Champions Trophy in Melbourne.

Pakistan were beaten by India in the final of the inaugural Asian Champions Trophy last year but this time they have emerged as the firm favourites.

Pakistan are now riding high on confidence after winning the Champions Trophy bronze medal, beating India in the play-off match.

Imran said his boys are high on confidence.

"We played well in all the matches, especially against the tough teams and managed to reach the podium after a gap of eight years. Definitely, it has pushed our confidence high and we're determined to sustain our good run in the Asian Champions Trophy as well," the Pakistan skipper was quoted as saying by The Peninsula.

Imran, however, feels that his team is now under the pressure of expectations.

"The pressure is certainly on us. The expectation level has also risen. Our fans feel that if we can do well in the Champions Trophy, which is the toughest hockey event in the world, we should put up a brilliant show in the Asian Champions Trophy as well. This is not an easy event," he said.

Imran feels India will be the team to beat.

"All the teams have almost equal levels. We respect India, which played an amazing hockey and topped their strong pool before finishing fourth," he said.

"We'll surely go for the gold medal. But if we've to keep up our strong run, live up to the high hopes of the country and fans, we'll have to play a really hard hockey to win here," said Imran.

Imran was happy that the Pakistan team was shaping up well for the 2014 World Cup.

"We're preparing for the 2014 World Cup. We've some very talented youngsters and they are mixing well with the experienced players like Waseem Ahmed, Shakeel Abbasi and me.

"We've tried to retain most of the players from the Champions Trophy as they had produced a wonderful show. It is possible that after the Asian Champions Trophy, we may try some other combinations. But our main target is the World Cup and we've enough time to build a strong challenge in that event," he said.

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