By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
Coach Shamlan’s charges face their litmus test as they kick-off their Asian Games campaign with a tough fixture against group leaders North Korea.
The Shaheens ended their preparatory tours with some superb results in Bahrain, drawing one and winning one against local sides. And bolstered by the win over India in August, they will be looking for a positive result in Incheon as coach Shamlan’s faces his first major test.
Having beaten China 3-0 on opening day, North Korea will be brimming with confidence as they expect to make short-work of the young Pakistani team.
Although Pakistan has managed to retain most of their squad from the practice games, injuries to key personnel including Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Bilawal-ur-Rehman (KRL) and Mohammad Adil (FC Dordoi Bishkek) will force the coach to make some changes. Mohsin Ali is expected to start at right-back in Faisal’s stead, while Bilawal who replaced Adil in the first place, will leave his position on the right flank for PAF’s Mansoor Khan.
With Hyon-Jin, So Kyong-Jin and Ri Hyok-Chol all finding the back of the net in the opening tie against China, North Korea will be a major force to be reckoned with and Pakistan’s defence will have to be particularly wary of their strike force.
Key men for Pakistan: Kaleemullah & Saddam Hussain
The FC Dordoi Bishkek duo are the standout players in a below-par team. And they proved their class in India and Bahrain with goals to win games. And although North Korea are expected to cruise to a win, Kaleem and Saddam will not let them have an easy day out.
Pakistan 0:4 North Korea
The match will kick-off at 1 PM PST, follow FootballPakistan.com’s Facebook Page for live updates.