By Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Islamabad
The Pak Shaheens face Yemen in the 1st leg of their World Cup qualifier at Doha’s Grand Hamad Stadium tomorrow at 8:30 PM PST.
The Yemenites haven’t had great results in their past few outings, but have seen a superb improvement in their performances. Miroslav Soukup’s side took on two friendlies in January, where they drew with a tough Finland side and lost 2-0 to Nigeria. Their 2014 Gulf Cup campaign last year also ended on a high note as they gained favourable results against top teams including Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain.
The Shaheens suffered three losses on their preparatory tour in Thailand and Malaysia, but recorded an impressive win over Afghanistan at home on 6th February. While their previous results have been far from satisfactory, the recent form is encouraging for coach Shamlan, who will be seeking the country’s first ever win in a World Cup qualifier.
Soukup has gone for a fairly strong line-up for the crucial tie and with no major injuries or absences being reported, it is likely that the tactician will be relying on Ayman Al-Hagri to lead the line against Pakistan, while hoping that Ala Al-Sasi can martial the midfield.
With their technical ability and favourites tag, Yemen will be hoping that their talented duo can inspire them to victory.
Coach Shamlan faces a late defensive worry with captain Zesh Rehman not being released by Pahang in time for the crunch tie. In his absence, the defence is expected to led by Denmark-based Nabil Aslam, who could be joined by Isa Town’s Mohammad Ahmed, Ahsanullah of KRL and Navy’s Mohammad Bilal.
Dordoi Bishkek midfielder Saddam Hussain and Bilawal-ur-Rehman (SSGC) are expected to hold the middle of the ground, while the trio of Mohammad Ali (Svebolle), Kaleemullah and Mohammad Adil (Both FC Dordoi Bishkek)will hope to generate chances for leading striker and possible captain Hassan Bashir.
Pakistan: Hassan Bashir
The Danish hit-man will be carrying Pakistan’s goal-scoring burden and could be handed the captaincy in the crucial World Cup qualifier, as the Shaheens aim for the group stages.
Yemen: Ayman Al-Hagri
Hagri has shown immense potential at international level and with a depleted Pakistan defence, will be hoping that he can take advantage and score for his country.
With Yemen having the upper hand, Pakistan will be looking to defend and insure a close score-line that they can take back to Lahore. But it promises to be a exciting clash with the Yemenites expected to a secure a narrow victory.
Yemen 2-1 Pakistan