By Abdul Hafeez Siddiqui
The Pakistan National Team, coached by George Kottan, lost to Thailand 4-0 in a friendly match on July 18, 2009.
Pakistan lined up in a diamond 4-4-2 formation:
Amir Gul (GK)
Muhammad Shahid (#2) Samar Ishaq (#5) Haji Muhammad (#4) Mehmood Khan (#3)
Nasrullah Khan (#6) Muhammad Essa (#10)
Mudasser Saeed (#14)
Arif Mehmood (#13) Zulfiqar Shah (#12)
Jadid Khan (#11) replaced Zulfiqar Shah, Nomi Martin Gill (#8) replaced Nasrullah Khan, and Safiullah Khan (#9) replaced Mudasser Saeed. Aurangzeb was the only unused substitute for Pakistan.
The full match can be viewed in the videos below, which are followed by my review.
My opinion on each player’s performance is as follows:
Amir Gul: Decent keeper. Can do the job for Pakistan if his defence is strong. Nothing remarkable. He needs to learn to catch the ball though. His distribution is better than Jaffer Khan’s. Jaffer only punts the ball, but Amir rolls/throws it out to his defenders and midfielders. But overall I still believe Bilal Rafiq is the better than Jaffer and Amir, and is the best man for the job at the moment.
Muhammad Shahid: Horrible. Defensively he was bad, and offensively he was playing too many long balls. The only good play by him was a great cross in the second half which Jadid Khan should have finished.
Samar Ishaq: Poor, but better than Shahid. He has learned to keep the ball on the ground which has improved his offensive game somewhat. Defensively, he is still a poor marker but tackling was decent as always. He is decent sweeper material, but not CB.
Haji Muhammad: Similar to Samar. Not very good defensively or offensively, but a decent tackler and kept the ball on the ground for the most part.
Mehmood Khan: Defensively he is almost as bad as Shahid, but his positioning and marking is slightly better. He is also too clumsy/rough and gives away too many fouls. Offensively, he is decent. Made a few overlapping runs and generally kept the ball on the ground.
Atiqullah: Very good in the defensive midfield role. Put the ball on the ground and looked to pass. Defensively, he is a bit poor, but better than Samar or Haji, in my opinion. Should be used in this role again if Amjad Iqbal or Atif Bashir are not available.
Nasrullah Khan: Held the ball well and had good ball control and off the ball running. He was looking to make the right passes but wasn’t always able to execute them properly. Defensively, he was tough and his positioning was excellent. He didn’t seem too comfortable in the wide position, however, and should be used as a CM.
Muhammad Essa: Very good passing for the most part. Defensively he was poor though. Was playing LM and should have been attacking down the wing more, rather than hanging back. Good ball control. Should have been used as an attacking mid rather than LM.
Mudasser Saeed: Good passing and off ball movement. Seems a smart player, but lacking toughness. Seems scared to get stuck in. Good height and build. He has potential. More experience and good coaching will make him a valuable player for Pakistan.
Arif Mehmood: Very good hold up play and off ball movement. Smart and hard working player. Was unlucky to be called offside on a couple of excellent runs. Although he is short, he is much stronger than Farooq Shah. His finishing needs much improvement, however. He should be used as a winger. He had a very good cross for Jadid on the far post and Safi should have finished on Jadid’s header back.
Zulfiqar Shah: Average. Short and weaker than Arif. Not nearly as smart either. Had one good pass which Arif should have finished.
Jadid Khan: Came in for Zulfiqar and did a much better job. Very good player offensively. Decent ball control, good passing, and constantly looking to attack the back post. Too rough defensively, and gives away fouls. Should be used in a winger role.
Nomi Martin Gill: Came in at RM for Nasrullah and did a good job. His ball control and movement is good. Holds the ball well and isn’t hesitant to pass back to the defence if no other pass is opening up. Should be used as a CM rather than RM.
Safiullah Khan: Came in at attacking mid for Mudasser and did a decent job. He was average defensively. Offensively was decent. Passing was OK, and positioning was good. Needs to be more aggressive though. Should have finished from Jadid’s header back into the middle of the box.
George Kottan: Has done a good job in teaching the players how to play a passing game rather than long ball. Tactics were very good. But player selection should have been better. Many players were playing out of position. He should have started with Safi and Mudasser up top, with Jadid at LM, Essa at CAM, and Arif at RM. Also, he should have used Aurangzeb instead of Samar or Haji and Nasrullah instead of Shahid.
Overall, I though Pakistan did well in the midfield, but lacked the final killer pass. The chances which we did get, should have been put away fairly easily. The defence was the weakest link. All of them should be lined up and shot. I hope none of them make it to the NT again. We could easily have held Thailand to a draw, but weak finishing and horrible defending let us down.
It was good to see the players trying to actually play a passing game, and succeeding for the most part. However, there needs to be emphasis on attacks from the wing and switching of the ball to the other side of the pitch. The players also seemed not to be comfortable and treated the ball as a hot potato. They need to learn to relax and use their brain when the ball is at their feet, instead of reacting instinctively and in a rushed manner.
Defensively, the players need to learn better positioning and marking. I noticed that they are also very quick to slide in to the tackle. They need to learn to stay on their feet and slide only as a last resort. Their sliding technique also needs much improvement.
So despite the loss there were many positives to take away from this match in addition to many areas of improvement which were highlighted. Kottan did a great job in his term as coach and we hope that the PFF will hire another foreign coach ASAP so that the team can build on Kottan’s legacy.