The Asian Champions Trophy will be held at the Sultan Qaboos Sports Complex from October 18-28 and will feature Asia's top-five sides – India, Malaysia, Pakistan, South Korea, Japan – and hosts Oman.
The Pakistan great, who has had a glorious career as a player and is one of the most respected coaches in the continent, expressed his disappointment at his team's showing at the recently-concluded Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games but hoped that the lessons learnt in Jakarta will go a long way in improving the team’s standards.
Zaman admitted that the opening Pool B match loss against Bangladesh (1-2) put paid the team's aspirations of a top-six finish at the Asian Games, a goal set for him by the Oman Hockey Association (OHA).
In his exclusive remarks to Muscat Daily on his return from Pakistan after a break following the Asian Games, Zaman said, “The opening match turned out to be the most critical game of the tournament for us. My players crumbled under the pressure and it reflected in their performance.
“I wouldn’t say that the players were complacent but they did commit silly mistakes. We dominated the match and were able to earn ten penalty corners but none could be converted.
“Asian Games is a big platform and with a live telecast and a sizeable crowd, I think our players were overwhelmed. There were some individual blunders and it cost us.”
Zaman said, “Had we played Bangladesh later in the tournament, I am sure that we could have beaten them. Unfortunately, the opening match result pushed us behind and we ended up seventh among the 12 teams.”
‘Lack big-match temperament’
The opening match defeat seemed to have affected the Oman players, who next faced former world and Asian champions, Pakistan, and suffered a 10-0 drubbing.
“We lack big-match temperament and the lack of top-class tournaments in Oman make it difficult for players. We had a successful camp in Europe but there too, we played friendly matches.
“We lack participation in tough competitions and our players are yet not ready mentally to take on top-class teams like Pakistan, India, Malaysia, Japan and South Korea in high-stake events.
“We kept Pakistan to a 2-0 lead till half-time and then conceded five goals in the third quarter. It was the same story against Malaysia (0-7) later as our boys conceded five goals again in the third quarter,” said Zaman.
The coach was critical of Oman goalkeeper's display during the large defeats and said, “Our keeper, Fahad al Nofli, is not as bad as he did in Jakarta.”
“I hope these big defeats serve as learning lessons for our boys and make them stronger for bigger competitions ahead,” said Zaman.
The FIH high-performance coach, said, “To bring in overall change in Oman hockey, there is a dire need to change coaching methods used by domestic clubs. It is inconceivable to have players adopt different styles at club and with the national team. There is a need to adopt basic coaching methods. Club coaches may have their own style of play but the fundamentals need to be strong and common.”
In Jakarta, Oman did win against Thailand (2-0) and Kazakhstan (4-0) in its pool matches and defeated Sri Lanka (5-2) in the seventh-match playoff but Zaman said “there is a need for consistency”.
He also said that there were few injuries to couple of his senior players, including penalty corner expert Bassim Khater, but he would not give “excuses” for the team’s performance in Asian Games.
‘Better show at home’
Despite the Asian Games disappointment, Zaman is hopeful that his boys have gained in experience and will be in better shape when Oman hosts the Asian Champions Trophy next month.
With the top five teams of the continent, including the recently-crowned Asian Games champion Japan, in fray in Muscat, the hosts will have to be at its best to avoid large defeats.
“We have begun our camp and I hope we have players in full fitness. I have called up some young players for the camp and I hope we avoid the mistakes that we did in Asian Games,” said the former Pakistan captain.
“I am hopeful of a better show at home and it is a great opportunity for our players to play against the top-five teams of Asia in front of their own fans,” said Zaman.