Lahore, 10 March: Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat has approved 37 players in the build up for Pakistan National Football team for appearance in fourth AFC Challenge Cup Qualifier. The winner of the finals will qualify for the 16th Asian Cup at Australia 2015. Pakistan will take on Turkmenistan (21 March), India (23 March) and Chinese Taipei (25 March) in Group-B encounters at Kuala Lumpur.
Asian Football Confederation allowed Pakistan the bye in the Pre-Qualifying Stage in the event that got under way on 9 February with first legs of four play-offs. Based on the rankings of the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup, the eight lowest ranked were drawn into four two-legged ties with the four winners advancing to the qualification proper. All matches are on a home and away basis scheduled. Unlike in previous editions, there will be no automatic qualifiers and holders Korea DPR, runners-up Turkmenistan and third-placed Tajikistan will have to navigate the qualification phase in order to return to the final phase.
AFC approved new format for the 2012 edition which was ratified by the AFC Executive Committee in Kuala Lumpur . All eligible Member Associations will compete in qualifiers (or playoff, if necessary). If there are more than 16 teams, the teams are to play pre-qualifying round (Home and Away).The Qualifying round shall consist of four groups of four teams each. The winners and runners-up from each group (total eight teams) will qualify for the tournament proper. Only the eight qualified teams for the tournament proper can bid to host the Finals.
AFC launched the biennial AFC Challenge Cup at Bangladesh in 2006. Tajikistan lifted first edition with a 4-0 thrashing of Sri Lanka in an anti-climax final at the Bangabandhu National Stadium on 16 April 2006. Dzhormikhon Muhidinov notched hatrick while Khurshed Makhmudov added other as Tajikistan displayed superior skill and strength to take absolute control.
The 2008 and 2010 editions of the event formed part of the qualifiers for the 15th Asian Cup as the winner of each edition – India, North Korea – entered for 16-teams finals at Qatar last January. Over 20,000 crowd at New Delhi’s Ambedkar stadium gave all out support to Indians and the men in blue scored thrice before the clock touched the 30-minute mark to lead India to a comprehensive 4-1 win over Tajikistan . Sunil Chhetri slammed hattrick – the first by an Indian ever in a final – and Bhaichung Bhutia added another to end the contest even before their opponents warmed up. Fatkhullo Falkuloev found the consolation goal but the early deficit proved too much for the defenders. The final was played on 13 August 2008 at make-shift venue as due to incessant rains in Hyderabad in the days leading up to the final, AFC changed the venue of the final and shifted it to New Delhi.
Two years later at Sri Lanka on 27 February 2010, Koreans outkicked Turkmenistan 5-4 in a penalty shoot-out after a tense 1-1 draw at Colombo ’s Sugathadasa Stadium with winner’s Ryang Yong-Gi canceling out Samyradow’s first half goal in the 75th minute. Goalkeeper Ju Kwang-min was the hero with crucially saved Arslanmyrat Amanov’s sudden-death penalty as DPR Korea completed a spirited comeback after playing for just under an hour with 10-men following Ryang Myong-il’s first-half dismissal.
Pakistan probables for AFC Challenge Cup
Goal keepers (3): Yousuf Ejaz Butt (Birkerod IF Skjold, Denmark), Amir Gul (NBP), Muhammad Omar (KESC)
Defenders (14) : Manzoor Ahmed (WAPDA), Alamgir Khan (Police), Ahsan Ullah (PEL), Obaid Majeed (KPT), Ansar Abbas (Army), Atif Bashir Qureshi (Barry Town, Wales), Reis Ashraf (Buckingham Town FC), Yaqoob Ijaz Butt (Herlev Idrætsforening FC, Denmark), Naveed Akram (WAPDA), Kamran Khan (KRL), Muhammad Ahmed (WAPDA), Muhammad Imran (Army), Samar Ishaq (KRL), Zeeshan Rehman (Muangthong United FC, Thailand)
Midfielders (12) : Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Syed Arif Hussain (WAPDA), Hussnain Abbas (PIA), Muhammad Tauseef (WAPDA), Muhammad Adil (KRL), Mahmood Khan (KRL), Irfan Khan (Bradford Park Avenue Association Football Club, England), Kashif Mumtaz Siddiqui (Fresno Fuego, USA ), Muhammad Waseem (KPT), Abdul Aziz (NBP), Nasr Ullah Khan (PIA), Adnan Farooq Ahmed (Aboomoslem FC, Iran)
Strikers (8) : Saddam Hussain (PIA), Fahad Ullah Khan (PTV), Jadeed Khan Pathan (WAPDA), Rizwan Asif (KRL), Kalim Ullah (KRL), Imran Niazi (WAPDA), Arif Mehmood (WAPDA), Muhammad Qasim (KRL).