By Alam Zeb Safi,
KARACHI: Denmark-based striker Hassan Bashir will lead Pakistan football team in their one-off friendly against Afghanistan at the Punjab Stadium, Lahore, on Friday (tomorrow).
The country’s prolific midfielder and Kyrgyzstan’s top club Dordoi FC’s player Saddam Hussain, who joined the camp on Wednesday, will be his deputy.
Pakistan’s coach Mohammad Shamlan said that he was hopeful that his team would put in their best performance.
“It is a friendly game which will help us prepare for the World Cup and AFC Under-23 Championship qualifiers. Afghans are also a good side who beat Pakistan 3-0 in Kabul, back in 2013. But I am optimistic that my players will live up to the expectations,” Shamlan told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.
Shamlan plans to field around seven of his Under-22 players, while there will be a handful of seniors like Hassan Bashir, Ahsanullah and Mehmood Khan in the squad.
Pakistan’s newly appointed captain Hassan, filling in for the injured Zeeshan Rehman, said Afghanistan were tough but they would try to take revenge of their loss against them in Kabul.
“No doubt, it would be a tough match. Afghans are former SAFF champions and have improved a lot over the years. But we will not mind that and effort would be made to play with high spirit,” Hassan told this correspondent from Lahore.
Hassan, who plays for the Danish second division club Fremad Amager, said that although they were missing some of their key players but the juniors also had potential.
“We don’t have Zeeshan Rehman, Kaleemullah, Adil and Ahmed but we still are a good side as our young players are potentially glorious,” the 28-year old Hassan said.
“Riaz, Mansoor and Mehmod are skilled guys and I think our performance against the Afghans will not be bad,” Hasan said.
Hassan was confident that for the World Cup qualifiers, suggesting their combination would be a good one.
“You know, Zesh has a lot of experience, while Kaleem is a smart player. And so is Ahmed, who has improved a lot during the last couple of years and their inclusion for the qualifiers would be a real boost to our side,” added Hassan.
He said that it was a great honour for him to serve as Pakistan’s captain.
“Personally I feel it’s a great thing for me to lead Pakistan,” said Hassan, who has been playing for Pakistan for the last one and a half year.
About his fitness he said: “I could have been much fitter. But I played my last game for the club on December 2. I am hopeful that I would be the fittest player when I will come five days before Pakistan’s first game in the World Cup qualifiers,” the skipper said.
In the World Cup qualifiers Pakistan will face their unknown opponents on home and away basis on March 12 and 17.
In a briefing at Lahore on Wednesday, Afghanistan team coach Hossein Saleh said that they wanted to bring smiles on the faces of people from both countries.
“Irrespective of the final outcome of the match, we want to send a message of peace and friendship to the whole world through this game,” Saleh said.
“We should also play at the youth level with each other so that the sport could be further developed in both the countries,” said Saleh, the Iranian.
Afghans’ skipper Jalal Uddin Sharityar said it would be a tough clash.
“I am very happy to be in Pakistan. This would be a tough match. We are not taking Pakistan easy. Both countries will put in their best. And the game will bring both the countries closer,” said Jalal, the Switzerland-based defender