June 19 - Dutchman Michel van den Heuvel (pictured) has been appointed as Pakistan's new hockey coach with the aim of guiding the country to success at the London 2012 Olympics.

Pakistan, winner of three Olympic gold and four world titles, slumped to their worst-ever finish in the 12-team World Cup held in New Delhi, India, earlier this year.

The flop prompted the Pakistan Hockey Federation (PHF) to sack coach Shahid Ali Khan amid furious criticism from former Olympians, officials and fans.

Former Olympian Khawaja Junaid was temporarily appointed coach for the last month’s seven-nation Azlan Shah Cup in Malaysia, in which Pakistan finished fifth.

PHF secretary Asif Bajwa said the decision to appoint van den Heuvel, former coach of the Netherlands’ national squad, was taken after serious deliberation.

"PHF has decided to take every measure to revive our fortune and providing a foreign coach was one of them," he said.

"So we have taken this decision in the best interest of the game."

Bajwa defended van den Heuvel’s appointment against criticism from former players opposed to a foreign coach.

"The PHF thinks that this is the only way to get back to the top and we will give him [van den Heuvel] complete support and are sure that he is capable of delivering the goods," said Bajwa.

Van den Heuvel will be Pakistan’s third foreign coach, succeeding fellow Dutchmen Hans Jorritsma, appointed in 1994, and Roelant Oltmans, in 2000.

Van den Heuvel guided the Netherlands to a bronze medal in the New Delhi World Cup before leaving in April over differences with the Netherlands Hockey Federation over team’s preparation for London 2012 Olympics.

Bajwa hoped fears about security in Pakistan would not be an issue for van den Heuvel.

Former German coach Paul Lissek and Australia’s Barry Dancer had been considered but were reluctant to stay in Pakistan.

Foreign sports teams and players have also refused to tour Pakistan due to security fears.

Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked militants have killed about 3,400 people across the country since July 2007.

An ambush on the Sri Lankan cricket team in March 2009 killed eight people and wounded seven players, ending Pakistan’s hopes of hosting international sports events in the near future.

Pakistan’s hockey team will tour Spain next month before competing in October’s Commonwealth Games in Delhi and November’s Asian Games in China.

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April 2010:
 Pakistan turn to Junaid after foreign coaches fear over security
April 2010: Pakistan open talks with Lissek to take over hockey team
March 2010: Pakistan target Lissek to be new coach
March 2010: Pakistan hockey looking for foreign coach for London 2012
March 2010: Pakistan greats demand sacking of Bajwa after World Cup flop