Sports Correspondent – The News
KARACHI: Pakistan will be looking to draw first blood when they face strong Jordon in their Group B opener of 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-23 Championship qualifiers at Al Qattara Stadium in Al-Ain on Saturday (today).
The match starts at 5:15pm PST.
In the other match of the group, Kuwait will meet Kyrgyzstan at the same venue.
A senior official of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) said the youngsters were capable to give tough time to oppositions.
“I hope the boys will play better game,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Friday.
“Both teams are Under-22 and at this level we can fight against Jordon. However, they are superior to us at the senior level,” Lodhi added.
As the event was twice rescheduled due to various reasons, Pakistan coach Mohammad Shamlan the other day was not satisfied with his team’s preparation.
But Lodhi said the PFF did what it could do.
“We have provided exposure to the team according to our resources. We exhausted our whole budget. The competitions should have been held in March. Now, we are also meeting the expenses of our team in the UAE,” Lodhi said.
“Boarding and lodging expenses are met by the participating teams,” Lodhi said.
Turkmenistan were the other side in the competition but they pulled out a few days ago due to certain reason to leave it a four-nation competition.
The competitions of the other groups have already been completed.
Iraq, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE), Syria, Australia, DPR Korea, Korea Republic, Japan and China have made it to the next year’s 16-team tournament proper to be hosted by Qatar. Besides, group winners, five best second-placed sides will also make it to the tournament proper.
The 2016 AFC Under-23 Championship also serves as qualifiers for the 2016 Rio Olympics, with the top three teams qualifying.
Squad: Saqib Hanif, Ihsanullah, Sheroz Ahmed, Usman Khan, Mohammad Sufyan Asif, Naveed Ahmed, Bilal Ashraf, Shehbaz, Shehram Babar, Mohsin Ali, Amir Siddiqui, Bilawal-ur-Rehman, Saddam Hussain (captain), Sanaullah, Mohammad Riaz, Faheem Ahmed, Bilal Sattar, Mansoor Khan, Saadullah, Habib-ur-Rehman.
Officials: Mohammad Shamlan (head coach), Hassan Baloch (assistant coach), Asghar Anjum (assistant manager), Mohammad Aslam (masseur).