Goal tells you everything you need to know about the side before the two neighbours clash in the Garden City twice in the coming five days...By Umaid Wasim with inputs from Atanu Mitra
COUNTRY NAME: Pakistan
ADMINISTRATIVE BODY: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)
FIFA RANKING: 164
NICKNAME: Green Shirts, Shaheens.
Last Official Match Played: Indonesia 4-0 Pakistan (21st June, 2014)
Head Coach: Mohammad Al Shamlan
Most Recent Meeting: SAFF Championships 2013: India 1-0 Pakistan (1st September, 2013)
|Coach profile: Mohammad Al Shamlan|
The Bahraini was handed the reigns of Pakistan ahead of the SAFF Championship last year although he only acted in the capacity of a consultant during the Shaheens’ campaign in which they crashed out at the group stage.
His first official match in-charge came in the Philippines Peace Cup later in 2013 where he was widely criticized for his approach in their 3-1 loss to the hosts where they conceded thrice despite taking a surprise early lead.
Since the Peace Cup campaign, Shamlan has ignored Pakistan’s bevy of foreign-based footballers including Zesh Rehman, Hassan Bashir, Adnan Ahmed and Yousuf Butt.
Instead, he’s focused on local-based players and that has brought contrasting result. Since then, Pakistan have lost all four matches they have played.
The rules in the Asian Games allow every team to have a maximum of three players who are aged more than 23, but quite surprisingly Pakistan will not have a single player in that category in their squad visiting India.
Shamlan generally sets his team out to attack and he’s aided by exciting players like Kaleemullah, Adil, Mansoor Khan and Mohammad Riaz who are quick on the counterattack.
“The team is fully prepared and in the best physical condition,” Shamlan told a press conference on Wednesday. “This tour will certainly help the players prepare themselves for the upcoming Asian Games and I hope they give their best against India.”
The onus will be on the likes of Kaleemullah, Mohammad Adil and Saddam Hussain to inspire the visitors to grab the bragging rights against their arch-rivals.
Striker Kaleem and winger Adil recently signed long-term lucrative contracts with Kyrgyzstan giants Dordoi Bishkek with midfield dynamo Saddam set to join them later this month.
The trio had been the backbone of an all-conquering Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) side who have been domestic champions for the last three years and were beaten finalists at the AFC Presidents' Cup in 2013.
“They are our three most important players,” Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) secretary Colonel Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told Goal. “Our chances in India will largely depend on them performing.”
Good service from playmakers, namely Mehmood Khan and Saddam Hussain, will prove to a menace for the Indian back-line.
In goal, Shamlan has the luxury of having services of three top goalkeepers in Saqib Hanif, Ehsanullah and Muzammil Hussain – with the trio having shown consistent performances in the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) over the last few years.
Though Ehsanullah has played between the sticks in the recent matches, that was largely due to Saqib being unavailable due to his club commitments as the Al Nakba Cup clashed with KRL's campaign in the AFC Presidents' Cup. With Saqib now back with the national team, it's expected he will feature in the starting line-up.
“We have a young team with some highly promising players who have played at the highest level so we can look forward to a good performance,” PFF president Faisal Saleh Hayat told Goal.
Mohammad Adil’s explosive runs down the right flank caught the eye during Pakistan’s 1-0 defeat to India in last year’s SAFF Championship but the dynamic winger is an injury doubt.
“Adil is carrying a thigh injury he suffered during our last league game [in Kyrgyzstan] before we came here for the India series,” Pakistan captain Kaleem told Goal.
“We hope that he recovers in time for the series,” he added.
If Adil fails to recover, Pakistan would be missing a player who provides cutting edge to their attack and their defence would have their hands full on thwarting Indian attacks.
Vice-captain Faisal Iqbal would be crucial to how Pakistan hold on at the back and would also be looking to add to the attacks with overallping runs.
When he and fellow full-back Ehsanullah do go forward, Pakistan risk being left open to counterattack and that is where Saddam Hussain will have to track back and help out his defense.
Faisal Iqbal - Mohammad Ahmed - Mohammad Bilal - Ehasanullah
Mohammad Adil - Saddam Hussain - Mehmood Khan - Mohammed Riaz
Mansoor Khan - Kaleemullah
|Players To Watch Out For
Kaleemullah: The 22-year-old is the top-scorer in the Kyrgyzstan League with 17 goals in 16 games and became the highest-paid player in the league when he signed a lucrative two-year contract with Dordoi Bishkek last month. Kaleem’s understanding with Adil and Saddam is also crucial and with another former KRL team-mate Mehmood Khan set to pull the strings in midfield, the Indian defense would have to be on their toes against the nifty striker who also possesses good dribbling abilities.
Mansoor Khan: At just 20, Mansoor is a talisman for his club side Pakistan Air Force (PAF), helping them win the domestic cup last season. In a team with established stars like Kaleem, Adil and Saddam, Mansoor usually doesn’t get the limelight but he has a knack for raising his game in the biggest matches.
Faisal Iqbal: The versatile Faisal, 22, can play in a variety of positions including full-back, centre-back and defensive midfield. A level-headed footballer, Faisal would need to keep his cool in the high-intensity games against India and lead his side from the back.
Kaleemullah: “This is a very important series for us and getting good results against India always helps boost morale especially with the Asian Games coming up. The Games [set to be held in South Korea from September 19] are our main target.”
Faisal Iqbal: “Although a Pakistan-India game is always a high pressure match, the team is intact and we have a good combination of offensive and defensive players.”
Umaid Wasim is a sports reporter for leading Pakistan daily Dawn and is still reeling from the memories of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil that he covered. He has interviewed footballers like Luiz Gustavo, Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, Luis Garcia and Jay-Jay Okocha in his career.
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