Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Kathmandu
The Pak Shaheens face a tough encounter against the hosts, who will be backed by the sold-out Darasath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu.
While they lost 1-0 to India, Pakistan will certainly take a lot of positives from the game they should have won. Man-of-the-moment, Hassan Bashir, was pivotal to the Green Shirts’ attack and he showed his worth by playing deep, penetrative runs at the Indian defence, which had no response to his brilliance.
The Fremad Amagar star was unlucky to hit the post in the 1st half and with the momentum firmly being in Pakistan’s favour, they should have come out on top.
Nonetheless, coach Shahzad Anwar reiterated that they will go out for the three points against Nepal, so a similar attacking game can be expected.
The hosts kicked-off their campaign with a comfortable victory over Bangladesh, whose toothless attack could not get past the Nepali defence.
With the 12th man clearly cheering them on and the likes of Anil Gurung and Bharat Khawas showing promise early on, expect the pressure to be on Pakistan, who are in a must-win situation.
With Bashir firing on all cylinders, his slot is a no brainer in the side, while winger Muhammad Adil showcased his exceptional ability for traditional play on the flanks. Not only did the KRL star run Mohnraj ragged, but he also laid on several good crosses that the strikers were unable to convert.
On the opposing side Mohammad Riaz also looked lively, but given his partiality for drifting into the middle, Faisal Iqbal or Saddam Hussain might be given a start in his stead.
Yaqoob Butt could be expected to start as a defensive midfielder, while Adnan Ahmad will look to continue his good work in the 2nd game. Mohammad Ahmad of WAPDA was solid during the last outing, so his inclusion alongside Faisal Iqbal could be a positive one for Pakistan.
Captain Samar Ishaq is unlikely to be benched despite not performing well against India, so Zesh Rehman will probably be given time to play in his natural role.
Yousuf Butt pulled off some great saves and the coaches will surely let him lead the team from the back, while Chaman superstar Kaleemullah, who had an off-game last time out, will be given the chance to redeem himself as Hassan’s strike partner.
With no major injuries, Jack Stefanowski will look to carve out another three points as the Gorkhalis wage war against Pakistan.
Match-hero Anil Gurung will be the first name on the score sheet and his experience should help youngsters such as Khawas play to the best of their abilities.
Pakistan: Hassan Bashir
Being the most potent forward in the line-up, Hassan will definitely look to find the back of the net and perhaps make up for his bad luck against India.
Nepal: Anil Gurung
With a goal and assist to his name, Gurung might finally be able to prove his critics wrong if he continues playing like this.
Pakistan 1-0 Nepal
The match takes place at 5:45 PST and the pre-match show starts at 4:35 PST.
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