By Abdul Hafeez Siddiqui
Pakistan have been knocked out of the 2010 Asian Games after a 6-0 drubbing by Thailand, a frustrating goalless draw with the Maldives, and a brave 2-0 loss to the Omani U21 team. Many issues were raised by the fans following Pakistan’s exit; everything from poor coaching to horrible defending to prevalence of long ball style of football in Pakistan. My fellow editors at FPDC have previously published articles on this site regarding the lack of involvement by Graham Roberts in the team’s management and the poor habit of long ball prevalent in Pakistani football. I would like to offer my views on the individual performance of each player in this tournament, since the main purpose of this tournament was to provide exposure to our upcoming players.
All was not doom and gloom. I believe that there were many positives to be taken from the individual performance of the players in this tournament. They will, InshaAllah, provide a solid base for the future of the Pakistan NT.
So let us begin. The players are listed according to their jersey numbers with Jaffar Khan being #1 and Shani Qayyum being #20.
Jaffar Khan: Below par performance from the captain. He was partially or totally responsible for many of the goals conceded by Pakistan. He was also mostly responsible for Pakistan’s lack of ball possession against Thailand as well as in the other matches, due to his reluctance to roll or throw the ball to the feet of his defenders or midfielder. Instead, he preferred to boot the ball upfield where the other team would easily regain possession, as our strikers had no support. His positioning was suspect many times and some of his decisions were poor. However, he did make some decent saves, and his defense made life tough for him, especially in the first match against Thailand. He should be dropped from National Team duty. It is time for him to retire. Several talented young keepers are available and ready to take his position for Pakistan.
Aurangzeb Baloch: Was poor defensively at left full back. His defensive positioning is poor and he is too quick to slide in with a tackle rather than trying to contain the opposition player. However, he is a good asset for the team while attacking. He looks to overlap and play one two and short passing football. It would be beneficial to keep him in the team, but maybe as a substitute when the attack needs to be strengthened.
Muhammed Ahmed: Did well at center midfield. Good physique and tough defending. He played some long ball, but it was smart and well executed for the most part. Didn’t really contribute much offensively though, in my opinion. However, based on feedback from the team, he was one of the best performers. Can be a good defensive midfielder for the national team in the future.
Samar Ishaq: Very poor. Defended horribly against Thailand, but was better in the last two matches after Atif was asked to partner him at center back. However, he played too much aimless long ball. Also missed a golden chance to win against Maldives by horribly missing a crucial penalty. He has consistently performed poorly for the National Team, and it is time for him to retire. Surely, we can find better defenders for our national team.
Atif Bashir: A calming presence at the heart of the defense. Was used ineffectively as a defensive midfielder against Thailand, but proved his worth in the last two matches by bringing much needed stability to the defense. He also helped keep possession by keeping the ball on the ground and building the attack via the midfield. He was named the Man of the Match against Maldives and is a strong candidate for MVP of the tournament for Pakistan. Hopefully he will be a fixture in the Pakistan National Team for a long time to come.
Mehmood Khan: Played well for the most part at center midfield. Needs to be tougher physically, but has good vision and passing. Not so great at helping the defense, but can make a good attacking midfielder for Pakistan. He should be kept on the team and developed further. Would be a treat to watch him with Adnan Ahmed partnering him in the center of midfield.
Yasir Afridi: Well played at right midfield. Attacked down the wing a few times, but crossing needs to improve. Looked to play Haider Ali through on the wing, and also looked to release the strikers on goal. Would have been most effective in a central attacking midfield role. Certainly should be a permanent part of Pakistan’s squad in the future.
Abbas Ali: Did well coming on as a sub at left mid and center mid. Is tough defensively and looks to play short passes. Excellent free kicks and crosses. Also had good wing play. He is a very experienced young player and should eventually be captain of the Pakistan National Team. However, he has to keep himself in shape, as he was getting too bulky recently.
Rizwan Asif: In my opinion, he is a strong candidate for MVP of the tournament for Pakistan. Controlled the ball up front. Made good runs off the ball and worked hard. He has a lot of pace and is a tough striker. His finishing needs to improve, however, and he needs to make better decisions at times. Despite that, he was the most dangerous player for Pakistan. Should certainly be part of the team in the future, and hopefully he will make better decisions as he picks up experience.
Kalim Ullah: Worked his socks off but with nothing to show for it. Often times didn’t have the proper support up front due to long ball tactics. Good ball control and pace for the most part and also showed some toughness and tenacity. However, he was selfish with the ball at times. Should have been used as a winger rather than striker. He also needs to bulk up a bit, as he is too skinny right now. Hopefully we will see him again in the green shirt.
Muhammad Tauseef: Too weak physically and poor ball control at left midfield. Hardly attacked up the wing. Made some nice runs off the ball, but mostly just an average player. Starts in all three matches were not justified. However, feedback from the team suggests that he was one of the better performers for Pakistan. I wouldn’t be too disappointed to see him dropped from the team, but he may be valuable if he can bulk up a bit.
Muhammad Adil: Very promising youngster from KRL. Linked well with Haider Ali when he came on at center mid against Oman. Looked to play the right pass, although execution was lacking at times. He is on the short side, but has a solid build and is a tough, smart player. He lacks some pace and agility, but should definitely be kept on the team and will do well for Pakistan in the future.
Zain Ullah: Didn’t see any playing time. He was the captain for runners up Balochistan in last year’s National Youth Championship. I would have liked to see him in action, and hopefully he will be kept on the team for now.
Haider Ali: Played right full back in all three matches. Defended well and moved well to attack on the right wing. However, if he got the ball in the backfield, then he was almost certainly going to play long ball and thus give up possession. His crossing also needs to improve. He showed some potential, and if he can be taught to keep the ball on the ground, then I believe he can be a valuable part of the Pakistan team in the future.
Ahsan Ullah: Played center back alongside Samar Ishaq against Thailand. Not good defensively, but may well have done better if Atif had partnered him at center back. Offensively, he played some long ball as the panic set in, but also showed some promise with good ground passes to the midfield. I wouldn’t be disappointed if he is dropped from the team, but he may prove a much better player if partnered with the right player at center back. I would suggest keeping him on the team and giving him a chance to play alongside and learn from Atif Bashir.
Umer Farooq: Was impressive at left full back. Didn’t press forward to support the attack as much as Aurangzeb, but much better defensively. Has some pace and recovers well. Tidy tackling as well. I wasn’t able to get much of an impression of his attacking ability however. He is certainly worth keeping in the team, and should possibly even be considered for the center back position.
Saddam Hussain: Came on at left mid against Maldives. Showed much potential. Made some nice passes for the strikers and has good physique and ball control. However, he should have been used as a striker, since that is his position. Should also be kept in the team and given more playing time.
Amir Gul: Didn’t get any playing time. He might have done a much better job than Jaffar Khan at keeper. Based on previous matches, his distribution is much better than Jaffar Khan’s and he would have helped Pakistan keep more possession. However, he is also somewhat short for a keeper and I would like to see some other keepers come in to take his and Jaffar’s positions.
Faraz Ahmed: Only got about 10 minutes of playing time at left mid against Oman. Showed some potential with good heading and runs. His crossing needs to improve though. He should be considered for the team in the future and should have gotten much more playing time in this tournament. His physique would have been very useful on set pieces.
Shani Qayyum: Very disappointing tournament for him. He was the youngest player in the squad and didn’t get any playing time after flying all the way from England. He might have done well for Pakistan as a winger, as his ball control and movement is good. Should probably be given an opportunity at the U19 level rather than senior or Olympic team.
Akhtar Mohiuddin: Most of the blame for the Asian Games debacle lies with him. He is a good trainer, but his match management ability is very weak. His formation and strategy against Thailand failed horribly. To his credit, he did change the formation to a more traditional 4-4-2 and used Atif Bashir at center back against Maldives and Oman, but his starting lineup and substitutions were poor. He has a habit of playing players out of position. In my opinion, Akhtar Sahib should be used as an assistant coach or youth coach, but should never be given charge of the senior or Olympic teams again.
Overall, it was a disappointing tournament for the team, which is full of talented young players. However, there were some good individual performances by many players. Unfortunately, poor coaching decisions, lack of experience, and lack of chemistry meant that those individual performances did not translate to the team level. This squad, minus Jaffar and Samar, is a good foundation on which to rebuild the senior team, but good coaching and opportunities to play competitive international friendly matches should be provided in order to realize their full potential. Although the results in the 2010 Asian Games may seem negative, I see much potential for the future of Pakistani football in this squad.