Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune
KARACHI: Pakistan striker Kaleemullah believes that the national football team needs to give its all and hold nothing back if it is to create history by winning the first round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifying round next month.
Pakistan’s preparations for their first match against Yemen in the qualifiers have begun in earnest after the national side left for Malaysia on Thursday night for friendlies. The team will also visit Thailand before playing the qualifier on March 12.
Kaleem, who is currently playing for FC Dordoi in Kyrgyzstan, has been called up for the tour by the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF).
The 22-year-old, who skippered Pakistan to a morale-boosting win over India last year, said that World Cup qualifiers are the most important event for the national side.
Although he missed Pakistan’s 2-1 victory against Afghanistan in a friendly earlier this month at home, the striker said that Pakistan will need to maintain that match-winning confidence during its tours and then against Yemen.
“Our morale is high after the Afghanistan win, but we need to maintain it,” Kaleem told The Express Tribune. “We can only win against Yemen if we continue with that spirit and work hard on the field.”
The Chaman-based player affirmed that the tours would greatly help in Pakistan’s bid to win their first qualifier. “We’ve never won the qualifiers before, but this time the team can make history because we have a good combination of players,” he said.
“I’ve seen the Yemen side too, and they are good. We can defeat them if we show aggression in our game and have confidence in ourselves.”
According to the PFF, Pakistan will play their two friendly matches in Malaysia, with the first on February 23 against Malaysia U19 and the second on February 23 against Malaysia U23.
The team will then leave for Thailand and play their friendlies with top clubs in the local league on March 3 and March 5.