Shahrukh Sohail, Senior Correspondent, Islamabad
The Green-Shirts take on their South Asian rivals at the Prince Faisal Bin Fahd Stadium aiming for three points, after suffering a narrow defeat against Saudi Arabia in their first game.
Zavisa Milosavljević’s troops put up a good display against the Saudis but were robbed of a famous draw due to a defensive error. However the coach’s effect on the team was there for all to see, as Pakistan looked like a rejuvenated side.
And taking into account their recent form, they should come away with a positive result against the Sri Lankans.
Formerly known as Ceylon, Sri Lanka played out an entertaining draw with Palestine in their opener, meaning that they are currently above Pakistan in the standings.
However owing to their 184th ranking, they will be the underdogs going into the game.
The Green-Kickers have no injury concerns going into the game, although the likes of Muhammad Adil and goalkeeper Saqib Hanif fell to the ground on more than one occasion.
Coach Nasir Ismail spoke to the media ahead of the vital tie and revealed that the team will be looking for nothing other than a win this time around.
“We need to win against Sri Lanka as it will help us keep ourselves in contention for a spot in the next year’s tournament.”
“The way our players have made improvement, I am confident they will be able to defeat Sri Lanka. You know, Sri Lanka have got only one match on their only tour of Maldives while Pakistan have been provided with three consecutive foreign tours of Thailand, Palestine and Bahrain and I believe that our boys have made quality preparation and they should defeat Sri Lanka.”
He also defended Pakistan’s performance against the hosts, reiterating that the Saudis are much more technically and tactically sound.
“We played extremely well against Saudi Arabia, who are much stronger. They are technically mature, tactically well aware and had home advantage. In spite of all the caliber of our opponents we held them for a long time before we conceded a goal due to a defence blunder in the second half. We could not opt for much attacking display against a strong team and we thought if we held them to a draw and got a point it would help us a lot. Saudi Arabia rallied hard but they did not create more open chances because of our strong defence. We also got two chances but those could not be converted,” the NBP boss was quoted as saying.
While Zavisa didn’t opt for an attacking line-up against Saudi Arabia, considering the side’s need for a win and the ranking of the opponents, he could choose to play much more offensive football this time.
Sri Lankan coach Sampath Perera has already claimed in the past that the qualifiers will be a huge examination of the team’s credentials and also cited that Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan were their best chances of winning.
“If you take into consideration the rankings we are placed low and our team can be matched only with Pakistan and Kyrgyzstan. My boys are ready to give their maximum and that’s what I am looking for,” he said.
Led by main striker Nipuna Devinda Bandara of Air Force, Sri Lanka’s line-up should prove to a good match for Pakistan and the ninety minutes that ensue will be crucial for both the teams.
The skipper will need to lead by example and hope that the strikers can finish all the chances the midfield carves out.
Sri Lanka: Nipuna Devinda Bandara
The attacker is tasked with the ominous proposition of beating the Pakistani defence, something which is easier said than done.
Pakistan 2:0 Sri Lanka