By Natasha Raheel, The Express Tribune
KARACHI: The Pakistan football team is due to train in Dubai for a week before the upcoming AFC Challenge Cup 2013 qualifiers, with the six foreign-based players expected to join the 12-member squad in the UAE.
According to assistant coach Shahzad Anwar, the team will leave for Dubai on March 6 and will be joined later by Denmark-based Pakistan players.
The AFC Cup qualifiers will be a litmus test for Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavjljevic after Pakistan’s drop in the Fifa rankings over the last one year since he took charge.
Earlier, the PFF had sent the national team to Nepal and Maldives for friendly matches. Pakistan beat Nepal in both the matches. Against Maldives, they drew one and lost their last tie 3-0. The two tours were organised to help the team prepare for the AFC qualifiers that will take place in Kyrgyzstan. Pakistan, who are placed in group B, will open their campaign against Tajikistan on March 17. The other two teams in the group are Macau and the hosts.
The national team has set sights on winning at least two matches in the group, a feat that will see it secure a position among the top two sides who will qualify for the next round.
“We are feeling optimistic about the qualifiers, thanks to the amount of match practice we had,” Anwar told The Express Tribune. “The team will be practising for a week in Dubai, which is a good preview to the conditions in Kyrgyzstan.
“The rest of the players are expected to join us there. I have huge reservations to the idea that foreign-based players are depicted as non-Pakistanis, when in reality the team is depending on them for a strong performance.”
Shahzad also mentioned that the trend of depending on foreign-based players was prevailing internationally. He said that even the Serbian national team had most of its players participating in foreign leagues throughout the year.
“We are counting on these players because they are very good. Bashir contributed to a large extent during the tours, and it is time we started to appreciate their game. The federation is calling them for a reason,” he said.