KARACHI: Pakistan football team on Tuesday night kick-started its preparation in Bahrain for the two-legged first round 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia to be held early next month.
According to sources, most of the players assembled in Manama on Tuesday to prepare for the tough challenge against Cambodia, a team which has been progressing with a good pace for the last few years.
However, Pakistan may face issues as the boys did not get enough exposure during the last four years because of the officials’ war at home. Having stayed away from international circuit for three years, Pakistan last year resumed international activity when they featured in Asian Games in Indonesia and SAFF Cup in Dhaka.
As World Cup and Olympic qualifiers were ahead, FIFA-recognised PFF provided the team a friendly match against Palestine in Al-Ram on FIFA Day last year before sending the Green-shirts to Doha for a camp in December.
When the team was in Doha a change came in Pakistan’s football fortune. A new body was formed with Syed Ashfaq Hussain Shah as its president in the elections held under the instructions of Supreme Court.
The same body took PFF headquarters and accounts in its possession on December 31 and now governs football matters at home. But as this body has no international recognition, it cannot field the team in the World Cup qualifiers. It has held a camp at the Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad, nonetheless.
The sources said that Brazilian coach Jose Antonio Nogueira has prepared a good plan for preparing the side for the stiff challenge against Cambodia. Pakistan will also play a few practice matches against clubs in Bahrain before flying out for Cambodia for the June 6 away-leg to be held in Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, Phnom Penh. The second leg of the qualifiers will be held on June 11.
According to the sources, foreign-based players are already in good shape and a good team could be prepared for the qualifiers. Because of the wrangling at home, Pakistan missed the Olympic qualifiers in March in Uzbekistan.
The sources said that top-notch facilities had been provided to the team in Bahrain. Last year, too, FIFA-recognised PFF had sent the team to Bahrain for training ahead of the Asian Games and SAFF Cup.
Pakistan did well in SAFF Cup held in Dhaka, losing in the semi-finals. Asia’s 12 lowest-ranked sides have been drawn for the first round with six winners to join the 34 nations in the second round to be held later this summer.