By: Our FPDC Correspondent M. Shahnawaz
After an improved show against Bangladesh that resulted in a draw, Pakistan could have won if the strikers had buried their chances, will look to improve on that against Maldives. Pakistan has not beaten Maldives in the last 2 senior team outings, playing a 0-0 draw in Karachi under Salman Sharida while suffering 3-1 defeat in 2008 in Male under Akhtar Mouihddin. Pakistan did show an improvemtn at the 2010 Asian Games when the U23 side managed another scoreless draw with Samar Ishaq missing a late penalty to snatch 3points.
Maldives managed to hold Nepal to a 1-1 draw in what can described as average performance from the 2008 SAFF Champions, repeating the score line from their opening game of 2009 SAFF Cup game in Dhaka. Ali Ashfaq produced a sublime run to hit thunderbolt while Nepal equalised from a set piece and could have gone to clinch all three points.
Pakistan will have to keep an eye on the danger man Ali Ashfaq alongside play maker Ibrahim Fazeel, who ran riot in 2008 SAFF edition. Pakistan dealt better in Guangzhou when Graham Roberts organised the team according to situation with Atif Bashir giving very little room to Ashfaq. Maldives struggled defensively against Nepal, something Pakistan must exploit if they are to get something out of the game.
Pakistan will have to improve their game from their opening match because Maldives are much quicker team and compete in the middle of the pitch because Pakistan failed to utilise its midfield against Bangladesh as they took the aerial route more often. Pakistan’s defence stood tall, especially Kamran Khan who pretty much won everything, the 2 makeshift full-backs, Rizwan Asif and M.Ahmed did very well defensively however there is need to operate in the attack too.
Maldives will be looking to correct their mistakes from the opening game which left Istvan Urbanyi very unhappy with his squad, especially exposing the fitness issues of his team. While Maldives have room for improvement, Pakistan’s draw has given fans some hope after they kept much higher ranked Bangladesh at bay.
Pakistan does not have any injury worries going into the game while Maldives will hope their players recover for the game with few having picked knocks against Nepal. Defeat in this game will leave the losing side mountain to climb while winners will have one foot in the semi-finals. a game with high stakes for no doubt and fotunes will favor the brave.
Maldives: Ali Ashfaq, Ibrahim Fazeel
Pakistan: Kamran Khan, Adnan Ahmed