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Thursday May 23, 2024

Pakistan face Maldives today

By Alam Zeb Safi
March 21, 2023

KARACHI: Pakistan’s senior football team is set to face Maldives in an international friendly on Tuesday (today) at Laamu, Gan, the southernmost island of Addu city.

The young Pakistan side is expected to give tough time to the experienced Maldives in the show which will kick off at 3:45pm. Soon after landing at Gan on Monday after spending a day at Male the Green-shirts did practice at the main venue at Gan at which both nations will meet on Tuesday.

This will be the only second game which Pakistan will be playing during the last three and a half years. Pakistan returned to international circuit towards the end of the last year when they played a friendly against Nepal.

Pakistan head coach Shehzad Anwar said that their charges are ready for the showdown. "All the players are fit, in a good shape and motivated,' Shehzad told The News from Gan on Monday.

"We did training today after reaching here. The turf on which we trained was fantastic and I hope it will be a good match,' Shehzad said. Shehzad is being assisted by Mohammad Habib and a couple of Brazilians who also worked harder during the month long training at the City School Lahore.

It is not yet confirmed whether central defender Syed Abdullah Shah will be able to play or not as he is facing some fitness issues. Goalkeeper Saqib Hanif will be captaining the side for the first time. Saqib has been playing leagues in Maldives for the last few years and knows Maldives football well. Umar Hayat will be his deputy for the game which in being played in FIFA window.

So far both nations have clashed each other in ten matches with Maldives winning four and Pakistan emerging victorious in three matches while three matches ended in a draw. Denmark-based striker Abdul Samad Shehzad and London-based 19-year old midfielder Harun Hamid and Pakistan’s grown Mohammad Sufyan and Umar Saeed will also make their debuts on the tour.

Denmark-based defender Abdullah Iqbal is also there in the squad. Abdullah had been tested against Nepal last year. Both Denmark-based players joined the team late on Sunday due to their clubs commitment and they trained with the side at Gan on Monday.

Pakistan team is in rebuilding phase following years of infighting among various groups which kept the sport stalled and FIFA suspended the nation twice during this troubled period which began after Pakistan's international commitment in spring of 2015.

The authorities are giving exposure to the young pool with an average age of 22 in order to prepare for this year's SAFF Cup and World Cup Qualifiers. India on Sunday officially announced that they will be hosting SAFF Cup from June 21.

The World Cup Qualifiers will be held towards the end of this year. After taking on Maldives on Tuesday Pakistan is also expected to tour Saudi Arabia after Ramadan as efforts are being made to manage such a deal. Pakistan also plans to utilise the June FIFA window also to prepare the team well for the major events.

Pakistan were unlucky not to manage it's entry for this year's Asian Games as the country was facing international suspension at time when entries were being finalised for the quadrennial extravaganza which will be held in Hangzhou in September-October.