Alam Zeb Safi – The News
KARACHI: FIFA on Wednesday confirmed that the second leg of the 2018 World Cup qualifiers between Pakistan and Yemen would be held on March 23 in Manama, Bahrain.
“Following the postponement of the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier match between Pakistan and Yemen that was due to be played on 17 March 2015 in Lahore, FIFA has today confirmed that the said game will take place on 23 March 2015 in Manama (Bahrain). The stadium and kick off-time will be announced in due time,” FIFA spokesman told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.
The outing, which was scheduled to be held at Punjab Stadium, Lahore, on March 17, had been abandoned following suicide attacks at churches in the Youhanabad area of the Punjab capital on March 15.
Pakistan have been training at Lahore for the battle. After losing their away leg 3-1 in Doha on March 12, Pakistan need to beat Yemen 2-0 to qualify for the second, 40-team round.
Pakistan plan to fly out of Lahore for Manama by March 21. “We plan to send our team to Bahrain by March 21,” Pakistan Football Federation’s (PFF) secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.
Danish defender Nabil Aslam left on Tuesday night and will not be part of the touring party because of a knee injury.
“Yes, Nabil will not be part of the team for the second leg. He had an MRI and has been advised three-week rest,” Pakistan’s manager Asghar Anjum told this correspondent.
Former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman is an option to replace Nabil of AB Copenhagen, but Asghar said it was not confirmed. “I don’t think Zesh would be there. He does not seem to be on the radar of the coach after he missed the first leg,” he said.
However, Asghar said that Danish striker Mohammad Ali would join the team in Bahrain. “Ali left for Denmark on Tuesday night because he had to join his duty. I don’t know what he does but he had to join his job because he was on leave. He will join us in Bahrain,” added Asghar.
Pakistan’s Denmark-born skipper Hassan Bashir was also scheduled to leave for his hometown in Denmark on March 20 but after FIFA gave March 23 as the new date Shamlan stopped him.
Hassan, after spending hardly a day with his family in Gujrat, joined the team in Lahore on Wednesday.
Just hours before FIFA postponed the Pak-Yemen tie on March 16, Pakistan coach Shamlan had told this correspondent that he would go with Saqib Hanif as his first choice goalie.
Muzammil Hussain served under the cage in Pakistan’s 3-1 loss to Yemen in the first leg in Doha.
Yemen scored all the three goals on set-pieces.
Pakistan on Wednesday held their training session at the City School and practised attacking football.
“We have no option but to go all out in our second leg,” Asghar said.
Asghar hoped that Bahrain would be like their home. “There are so many Pakistanis residing in Bahrain. They will back us. Shamlan is also from Bahrain and definitely the local crowd will also support Pakistan,” said Asghar, a former international player.