By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Lahore
The Shaheens are set to host the Palestinians in a one-off friendly in Lahore’s Punjab Stadium as International football gets a welcome return to Pakistan.
Coach Shamlan’s men endured a torrid time in the Asian Games but still managed to scathe away from inflated score-lines with North Korea winning 2-0 and China 1-0. However, the young team hasn’t fared well in terms of performances and will be looking to turn that around with a win at home.
Coming on the back of a scintillating 3-2 victory over India, Palestine are brimming with confidence especially after securing their place in the 2015 Asian Cup, courtesy of their successful AFC Challenge Cup campaign in May.
Bahraini boss Shamlan has ignored foreign-based players for the friendly encounter once again, whilst the PFF have managed to coax FC Dordoi Bishkek to release influential midfielder Saddam Hussain. Moreover, Issa Town’s Mohammad Ahmed has linked up with the squad and is expected to resume his duties as a centre-back alongside Mohammad Bilal (WAPDA).
With Muzammil Hussain cementing his place as a starting goalkeeper courtesy of several superb performances in recent times, the WAPDA shot-stopper will be starting tomorrow’s game in goal. However, there are still some lingering injury worries with Bilawal-ur-Rehman (KRL) and Faisal Iqbal (NBP) returning to the team after a layoff on the treatment table. Moreover, Dordoi’s Mohammad Adil and Kaleemullah were not released by the Kyrgz giants due to their Super Cup finale and subsequently won’t be playing against Palestine.
The Palestinians come into the game with a number of their first-team stars, although they are missing some key defensive personnel. Nonetheless, ace striker Ashraf Nu’man has been included in the team and recently found the back of the net against India in a thrilling 3-2 triumph.
Pakistan: Saddam Hussain
The midfielder will be a determined force in midfield but without the quality of Kaleemullah and Adil up-front, it remains to be seen how much he can influence proceedings.
Palestine: Ashraf Nu’man
Plying his trade in the Saudi Pro League, Ashraf tore apart defences in the AFC Challenge Cup and is arguably the best to score in the friendly tie.
Pakistan 1-1 Palestine