As the SAFF Championship approaches, Goal profiles the 8 contenders who vie for glory in the South Asian International tournament. In this edition, we focus on Pakistan...
COUNTRY NAME: Pakistan
GROUP : A (along with India, Bangladesh and Nepal)
ADMINISTRATIVE BODY: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)
FIFA RANKING: 168
NICKNAME: Green Shirts
Last Official Match Played: Afghanistan 3-0 Pakistan (20th August 2013)
|History And Team Highlights
Pakistan played their first International game in 1950, losing 5-1 in an away game to Iran. Two years later they were declared joint winners of the Colombo Cup, which was held in Sri Lanka, who were then known as Ceylon. The Green Shirts, though they lost to India, had beaten the hosts and Bhutan, to climb to the top of the table.
This period was infact, their most glorious era in football, as in 1954, they defeated Singapore 6-2 in the Asian Games.
In 1959, they failed to qualify for the Asian Cup, after a 4–1 thumping by Iran, 1–0 defeat to India and 2–0 loss to Israel. However, Pakistan earned their first win against India when they defeated them 1–0, and won many admirers, when they handed Iran a 4-1 thrashing in the second game, before drawing 2-2 with Israel.
This was followed by an entry in Merdeka Cup, where they beat Thailand by their then record margin of 7-0, and also beat the mighty Japan 3-1. However a loss to the hosts and then Indonesia, put paid to their hopes of a place in the final. Two years later though, they did reach the final, before succumbing to a 2-1 loss to Indonesia.
However, the team began to slide since then, going three years before playing another competitive fixture, after which they finished third in the RDC Cup.
After East Pakistan became an independent Bangladesh, the team’s performances were further hit, as they could no longer call upon Bengali players. Infact their goalless draw against Indonesia in the King’s Cup in 1982, was the first time they recorded a cleansheet in twenty years.
The team has failed to make a mark at the International stage, having played in the AFC Challenge Cup just once, while their biggest triumphs have been in the South Asian games, where they have won the gold on four occasions.
|History In The SAFF Championship
Pakistan hosted the very first SAFF Championship edition in 1993, but finished fourth and bottom of the teams in the fray, not even winning a single game in the competition, though they did draw against eventual champions India.
They registered their first ever win in the championship in 1995 against Bangladesh, though they still finished bottom of their group.
1997 though saw a change for the better in their fortunes, as they finished third, their best performance in the tournament till date.
They made the semis yet again in the 2003 and 2005 editions, but have failed to get past the group stages ever since, even though they were the first South Asian side to allow foreign based players of Pakistani origin to play for them.
|2013 SAFF Championship Preliminary Squad
Goalkeepers – Yousuf Butt, Saqib Hanif, Muzammil Hussain
Defenders – Samar Ishaq, Yaqoob Butt, Kamran Khan, Ahsanullah, Muhammad Ahmed, Mohammad Hameed, Zesh Rehman, Amjad Iqbal
Midfielders – Adnan Ahmed, Muhammad Adil, Yasir Afridi, Saddam Hussain, Zia Us Salam, Faisal Iqbal, Naveed Ahmed, Mohammad Riaz
Forwards - Hassan Bashir, Kaleemullah, Saeed Ahmed, Muhammad Mujahid
|Players To Watch Out For
Zeshan Rehman – The former Fulham centre-back is one of those players who decided to represent the country of their origin, when approached by the PFF. The only Green Shirts player to have played in England, Hong Kong and Thailand, brings a calming influence to the team at the back, alongwith the experience of having played at a professional level for most of his career.
Yousuf Butt – Another member of the foreign contingent, the custodian, who has represented Canada at the age group level, plies his trade in Denmark for Glostrup FK. Capped for the first time in 2012 against Singapore, how he commands the box against stronger oppositions, might play a crucial factor in where his side ends up, at the end of the group stages.
Blessed with good reactions, he will have to be at his best, as Pakistan’s defense can often suffer from a lack of concentration, meaning that the goalkeeper has a lot of work to deal with.
Hassan Bashir – Another Denmark based player, the striker also made his debut alongside Butt in the Singapore tie, and has since become an integral member of the squad. He got on the score-sheet in his very next game, scoring in a win over Nepal, before assisting for another goal versus Maldives, showing he not only had a ruthless finishing touch, but also plenty of creativity.
Both these qualities will be invaluable for his national team, as they look to beat the higher ranked teams like India and Pakistan.
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