Alam Zeb Safi [The News]
KARACHI: After losing to Kuwait 0-2, Pakistan colts will be looking to take a step closer to the 2012 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Championship when they will face United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their Group B qualifiers in Kuwait City on Saturday (today).
The match starts at 8:30pm PST. Pakistan, who have three points, need a win to enhance their chances to qualify for the next year’s tournament proper as two teams from the pool will move ahead. After beating Maldives 4-0, the SAFF Cup champions Pakistan suffered a 0-2 loss at the hands of Kuwait the other day, a result that has put them under pressure.
Yemen and Kuwait are at the top with four points each, followed by Pakistan with three, Afghanistan and UAE with two each and Maldives are yet to open their account.
United Arab Emirates (UAE) look tough but Pakistan’s coach Sajjad Mehmood said that they are very much beatable.
“No doubt UAE are a good side but we can beat them,” Sajjad told ‘The News’ in an interview from Kuwait on Friday.
“If we get an early goal then our players have the ability to put pressure on the opposition,” said Sajjad, who led his side to SAFF Cup title in Nepal last month.
He said that all the players are fit and ready for the crucial slot.
“All the boys are fit and are itching to perform in tomorrow’s game. But we will miss our attacking midfielder Sher Ali who has been suspended for double booking. We have Zain-ul-Aabdeen and Sanaullah in the reserves and any one of them could replace Sher Ali,” Sajjad revealed.
He made it clear that a win against UAE is very much important for Pakistan.
“We feel that we need a win against UAE as it will bring our boys back in the same mood in which they had lifted the SAFF Cup title. Our top priority will be to record a win but if we face problems in the middle then the second option will be to go for a draw as it could also improve our position as the pool is still laying wide open and any two teams of the five top could earn tickets for the next year’s tournament,” the coach remarked.
Against Kuwait the other day, Pakistan’s midfield did not perform but the coach said that he has worked in that area during Thursday’s training session and hopes better output from the area in Saturday’s show.
“Although we had conceded goals against Kuwait due to defensive blunders the midfield too did not perform well that day. But I have worked with the boys in Thursday’s training session and will try to give more time to the midfield in training today and I hope that our midfielders will be able to perform up to the expectations tomorrow,” Sajjad said.
In other matches to be played on Saturday (today), Maldives will lock horns with Kuwait while Afghanistan will meet Yemen.