KARACHI: After going 0-1 down against strong Saudi Arabian side, Pakistan Under-22 football team will be desperately looking for a win when they face Sri Lanka in their second Group B game of the 2013 Asian Cup Qualifiers to be held at Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium in Riyadh on Monday (today).
The match starts at 10:45pm PST.
The Greenshirts need a victory in today’s game to keep their hopes alive for moving into the next year’s tournament.
Pakistan football team assistant coach Nasir Ismail said that the match against Sri Lanka was very important for Pakistan to stay in the qualification race. “We need to win against Sri Lanka as it will help us keep ourselves in contention for a spot in the next year’s tournament,” Nasir Ismail told ‘The News’ from Riyadh in an interview on Sunday.
“The way our players have made improvement, I am confident they will be able to defeat Sri Lanka,” he said. “You know, Sri Lanka have got only one match on their only tour of Maldives while Pakistan have been provided with three consecutive foreign tours of Thailand, Palestine and Bahrain and I believe that our boys have made quality preparation and they should defeat Sri Lanka,” Nasir pointed out.
Sri Lanka held Palestine to a 1-1 draw in their opener on Saturday night while Syria defeated Kyrgyzstan 1-0.
In other matches on Monday (today), Saudi Arabia will face Kyrgyzstan while Palestine will lock horns with Syria. Syria and Saudi Arabia are on the top of the table with three points each, followed by Sri Lanka and Palestine with a single point each, while Pakistan are yet to open their account.
Nasir defended Pakistan’s performance against Saudi Arabia. “We played extremely well against Saudi Arabia, who are much stronger,” Nasir. “They are technically mature, tactically well aware and had home advantage,” the coach said.
“In spite of all the caliber of our opponents we held them for a long time before we conceded a goal due to a defence blunder in the second half,” Nasir said.
He revealed that Saudi Arabia were brought into top shape by former Barcelona coach Frank Rijkaard who is now coaching Saudi Arabia’s senior team.
Nasir said that Pakistan had played a little defensively against the hosts. “We could not opt for much attacking display against a strong team and we thought if we held them to a draw and got a point it would help us a lot,” the coach said.
He said that Saturday’s show was a pressure game for Pakistan. The way the team played showed that the boys had made a marked improvement during the last couple of months because of the exposure provided to them by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), he said. “Saudi Arabia rallied hard but they did not create more open chances because of our strong defence,” Nasir pointed out.
“We also got two chances but those could not be converted,” said the coach.
Squad: Kaleem Ullah (captain), Faisal Iqbal (vice-captain), Saddam Hussain, Saqib Hanif, Muzammil Hussain, Tanveer Mumtaz, Naveed Ahmed, Ahsan Ullah, Manzoor Ahmed, Mohsin Ali, Noor Muhammad, Aamir Siddiqui, Rashid Ali, Mehmood Khan, Muhammad Adil, Sher Muhammad, Bilawal-ur-Rehman, Junaid Qadir, Abdul Rehman, Imran Ali Khan, Muhammad, Zakir Lashari, Riaz Ahmed.
Officials: Zavisa Milosavljevic (head coach), Nasir Ismail (assistant coach), Dr Kamran Mehdi (physiotherapist).