Today (9 March 2011) sees Pakistan U21 side face off against a confident Malaysia U21 team in the 2nd leg of the Olympic qualifiers at Lahore’s Punjab Stadium. The game will kick off at 8 PM PST (GMT+5) and FPDC will provide live text updates as well as appropriate streaming links for the game today with PTV National rumoured to be willing to telecast the game LIVE.
Malaysia have the advantage being 2-0 up on aggregate after their decisive win at Shah Alam Stadium, Selangor in 1st leg on 23 Feb 2011, leaving Pakistan with a mountain to climb if Tariq Lutfi’s boys still want to dream about going through to the next round. Hopefully, a large Lahori crowd is expected to cheer the home side on after impressive showing in the friendly against Palestine on 1st March.
The 1st leg was characterised by some high Malaysian pressing in midfield, as well as a vocal crowd of 6000+ cheering the home side that left the Pakistani team under tremendous pressure for the entire 90 minutes. Mistakes in defence and lack of command in midfield allowed Malaysia too much space going forward. Only KESC goalkeeper Muhammad Omer managed to keep the scores down to just 2-0, although the Malaysian side would be kicking themselves for not scoring 3-4 more goals and make a fight back for Pakistan impossible given the amount of chances they had.
The changes in the Pakistan side since the 1st leg, and the recently concluded friendly series against Palestine, have raised some eyebrows. The exclusion of expatriate players Irfan Khan and Yousuf Butt from the squad for a perceived ‘lack of commitment’ has not gone well with the said boys.
With Army’s Ansar Abbas suspended for his silly red card in the first leg, it is expected that WAPDA’s Mehmood Khan will take his place in midfield. Also, the injury sustained by Muhammad Tauseef in Karachi against Palestine 5 days back puts his participation and effectiveness under question.
As always, Tariq Lutfi’s troops cannot give Malaysia any space in the centre and on the wings where they are most devastating. Question marks about the Pakistani midfield in dealing with the pressure remain although the team has slowly improved some areas as demonstrated by the games against Palestine. The defensive pairing of Manzoor Ahmed (WAPDA) and Alamgir Khan (Police) have managed to become a good partnership over the last 2 weeks, improving with every game. However, they will be hoping that their midfield can contain the Malaysian pressure and help the side surge forward.
Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the Pakistan team is undoubtedly their strike force. While vice-captain Muhammad Rizwan Asif (KRL) has impressed with his hard running and fight to pressure the Malaysian defence, question marks about the effectiveness of the under-fire pair of Kaleem Ullah (KRL) and captain Jadeed Khan Pathan (WAPDA, Afghan FC Chaman) over these last 2 weeks have not been answered. Likewise can be said about PIA’s Saddam Hussain and PTV’s Fahad Ullah Khan who have not been able to make any impact up front.
Pakistan have only managed to score just once in 270 minutes of football, and that too from a penalty by Tauseef.
But football is a funny game. One can never be over-confident about any team who want to redeem themselves and fight to the death for glory. Maybe this very factor of football’s unpredictability and the home crowd support can help Pakistan forward to put the ASEAN champions under pressure for the entire 90 minutes.
Pakistan will be expected to play a 4-3-3 formation while Malaysia will use their more-flexible 4-2-3-1 formation.
All in all, realistically speaking, Malaysia are the favourites for the tie because of their more well-organised and tactically effective teamwork. There will definitely a reasonable amount of Malaysians present tonight to cheer on their side, and the visitors will look to quickly kill off their game by controlling the tempo and deny Pakistan any space in the centre. The 2-0 advantage for the visitors will probably make them set back comfortably and hit Pakistan with devastating counter-attacks that could be the home side’s undoing.
Here is hoping today’s game is a true spectacle of football that can bring smiles to the faces of the fans in the stadium and those tuning in from across Pakistan, Malaysia, and around the world.
Game on, Boys!
Goal Keepers : Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan) CAP, Muhammad Zamir Selamat (Harimau Muda A)
Defenders: Mohamad Muslim Ahmad CAP, Mohd Affize Faisal Mamat, Mohd Faizal Muhamad, Mahalli Jasuli, Mohamad Fadhli Mohd Shas, Mohd Fandi Othman (Harimau Muda A)
Midfielders K. Gurusamy VC, Wan Zaharulnizam, Mohd Irfan Fazail, Robbat Gary Steven, Shanmugam Sivanesan, Wan Zack Haikal (Harimau Muda A), Mohamad Faizal Abu Bakar (Kedah)
Strikers: Ahmad Shakir Ali (Kedah), Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Negeri Sembilan), Thamil Arasu Ambumamee (Harimau Muda A)
Goal keepers: Amir Gul (NBP), Muhammad Omar (KESC)
Defenders: Manzoor Ahmed (WAPDA), Alamgir Khan (Police), Ahsan Ullah (PEL), Ubaid Majeed (KPT)
Midfielders: Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Syed Arif Hussain (WAPDA), Muhammad Tauseef (WAPDA), Muhammad Adil (KRL), Mahmood Khan (KRL)
Strikers: Saddam Hussain (PIA), Fahad Ullah Khan (PTV), Jadeed Khan Pathan (WAPDA) CAP, Rizwan Asif (KRL) VC, Kalim Ullah ( KRL)