By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
The Pak Shaheens play their opening game of the invitational tournament in Philippines, facing Taiwan who caused a major upset by beating the hosts earlier.
Following their much-improved displays in the 2013 SAFF Championship, coach Mohammad Al-Shamlan will be looking to start his career at the helm with nothing other than a win. And luckily, the Green Shirts are in good form as well, having beaten Bangladesh in their last game in Nepal, a feat which came through after fifteen odd years.
However, with Chinese Taipei having proven to be a bogey team in the past, the fixture will be a tricky one as the Bahraini boss looks to start with a bang.
Having beaten the Filipinos in their own backyard, the Taiwanese will be raring with confidence as they kick-off on Sunday. And provided that they grab a win, they could make history by lifting silverware and that too with maximum points.
Shamlan has made some wholesome changes to the side as he looks to experiment in the friendly tournament. Influential midfielder Adnan Ahmed has not been included in the side, while captain Samar Ishaq is out due to illness, leaving Zesh Rehman to captain the side.
Kamran Khan has also been dropped by the coach, while fan-favourite Mohammad Rasool was dropped from the final squad due to a lack of fitness. A bunch of youngsters have also been indicated with Sufyan Asif (Lyallpur FC), Mehmood Khan (KRL FC), Bilawal-ur-Rehman (KRL FC), Mohammad Bilal (Navy FC) and Zainullah (WAPDA FC) making the cut.
Alongside Danish duo Hassan Bashir and Yousuf Butt, Mohammad Ali has returned from injury and is expected to start up-front.
Scoring two goals against Philippines and chipping Fulham’s Neil Etheridge, Taiwan will retain their side from last time out as they prepare to challenge for the win.
Pakistan: Mohammad Ali
The BK Avarta forward has made a sensational start to his International career and in 4 caps has managed to rattle defences with his non-stop running and unbelievable skills. And with Hassan partnering him up-front, Pakistan will probably have the most lethal striking duo they have ever assembled in their recent history.
Chinese Taipei: Li Mao
Mao scored a sensational goal against Philippines last time out and with confidence booming, he will be looking to carry on from where he left off.
Pakistan definitely have the upper hand when it comes to previous encounters, but Chinese Taipei have considerably improved in recent times, which makes this quite difficult to call. The Shaheens will be exposed defensively as skipper Zesh Rehman does not have an experienced central-partner, but with Hassan and Mo. Ali leading the line, there is quality up-front to find the back of the net.
Chinese Taipei 1:2 Pakistan
Kick-off time is 1:00 pm PST on Sunday 11th October 2013.