By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, FootballPakistan.com
Pakistan host the Lions of Khorasan for a friendly in Lahore’s Punjab Stadium tomorrow (Friday, 6th February) as the two countries prepare for upcoming World Cup and U-23 Asian Cup assignments.
Pakistan play their first international friendly since October, 2014, where they hosted Palestine but lost 2-0 to the visitors. Under coach Shamlan Pakistan also struggled in the Asian Games, losing out to China and North Korea, but grabbed the series against India held in Bangalore in August.
The Afghans haven’t played since their 2014 AFC Challenge Cup campaign, where they reached the semi-finals but were knocked out by eventual champions Palestine. The 2013 SAFF Cup winners also lost their 3rd place game against hosts Maldives, but have shown immense improvement over the last few years to bolster their international rankings.
Coach Shamlan continued his trend of utilizing young players for senior team duty, although Denmark-based Hassan Bashir has been included in the match day squad and been handed the captaincy. Zesh Rehman (Pahang FA) was also called up for the tie; however the defender sustained a late injury that halted his involvement. Calls-ups were also dished out for Otis Khan (Sheffield United) and Sami Malik (VFC Plauen), but the duo will have to wait till March to make their Pakistan bows owing to documentation and logistical issues.
Mohammad Ahmed (Issa Town) was also not released by his Bahraini club, while Dordoi Bishkek allowed Saddam Hussain but refused the call-ups for Kaleemullah and Mohammad Adil.
As a result, Pakistan are expected to put up a new look squad with plenty of youngsters to take on the visiting Afghan side.
The untimely stabbing of coach Yousef Kargar prevented his involvement against Pakistan, but the visitors relied upon on their technical director to lead the team in the veteran coach’s stead, with call-ups being given to numerous foreign-based players as well. Although regular captain Zohaib Islam Amiri (Dempo SC) is injured, Djelaludin Sharityar (FC Schweinfurt 05) is expected to captain the squad.
(Expert opinion by Footballnameh.blogspot.com)
It would be an even match between the two neighbors. Afghanistan is higher in FIFA ranking and had good performance in recent tournaments; however, they are missing a number of key players. Fiqiryar, the Afghan stable goal keeper, Hadid the defense winger and Abbasin Alikhail are not there either. Afghanistan lacks finishing strikers as well. The only hope is Balal Arezou who has not been in good form recently. Afghanistan team does not play an attacking football, so expect a defensive system of play from Afghanistan.
While Pakistan misses some key players, they have home advantage. My prediction for the match is 1-1 draw.
Pakistan: Hassan Bashir
The Danish hitman will look to influence proceedings on his own with key players out and is a good bet to be Pakistan’s strongest contender to score a goal at the Punjab Stadium on Friday.
Afghanistan: Faysal Shayesteh
The young mid-fielder is playing in Thai Premier League and has been quite impressive on the left wing of Afghanistan. He initiates the long range shoots and is behind most of the attacks.
Pakistan 0-2 Afghanistan
The game will be telecasted LIVE on Khyber TV at 3PM followed by a delayed telecast on PTV Sports.