Hockey: Pakistan recall goalie Akbar for Asia Cup in final bid to reach World Cup

KARACHI (AFP) - Pakistan have recalled goalkeeper Salman Akbar for the Asia Cup hockey tournament in Malaysia, which represents their last chance to qualify for the 2014 World Cup.

The 31-year-old starred in Pakistan's Asian Games win in Guangzhou nearly three years ago but was discarded last year.

The Ninth Asia Cup will be Pakistan's last opportunity to earn a place in the World Cup to be held in May-June next year at The Hague in the Netherlands.

The team have been world champions four times and Olympic gold medallists thrice. But they have fallen as low as No.8 in international rankings after finishing in 12th position in the last World Cup in India three years ago.

They finished seventh in last year's London Olympics and fell to seventh in the World Hockey League in Malaysia last month, an event from which the top three teams qualified for the 2014 World Cup.

The Asia Cup will be held from Aug 24 to Sept 1 in Ipoh in Malaysia. Eight-time Olympic champions India, South Korea and the hosts are also hoping to qualify for the World Cup.

Pakistan, led by full-back Mohammad Imran, are in Pool A along with Malaysia, Japan and China.

India, South Korea, Oman and Bangladesh form Pool B. The top two teams from each pool will qualify for the semi-finals, with the champion qualifying for the World Cup.

Pakistan won the inaugural three editions in 1982, 1985 and 1989 but have not been victorious since then. They were runners-up to South Korea in the last edition in Kuantan, Malaysia in 2009.

Squad: Mohammad Imran (captain), Imran Butt, Mohammad Irfan, Mohammad Rizwan Junior, Mohammad Tauseeq, Waseem Ahmed, Salman Akbar, Rashid Mahmood, Fareed Ahmed, Aamir Shahzad, Waqas Sharif, Shafqat Rasool, Abdul Haseem Khan, Shakil Abassi, Ali Shan, Mohammad Umar Bhutta, Mohammad Dilber, Mohammad Zubair.