Akhtar confident of reaching Asian Games knock-out stage

By Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan Head coach Akhtar Mohiuddin is optimistic of his team’s chances in the Asian Games in spite of the fact that Pakistan football team will not have an international assignment before the Guangzhou affair.

“It would have been better to have a tour of South Korea, but we will play well. We are confident that we’ll make the knock-out stage for the first time in the Asian Games’ history,” Akhtar told ‘The News’ in an interview from Lahore on Tuesday.

“Though Thailand and Oman are far better teams. But Maldives is also in our group and we can beat them,” he said.

“If we beat Maldives and then play a draw with the remaining two sides, it will increase our chances to be counted amongst the four best third-placed teams,” Akhtar pointed out.

“No doubt Maldives have been the winners of the SAFF Championship and their players are technically better, therefore we will adopt an aggressive strategy against them,” Akhtar, who was installed as the head coach after Austrian George Kottan in February this year.

The football event of the Asian Games will be held from November 7 to 25.

Pakistan have been placed in Group F with Thailand, Oman and Maldives while Qatar, who defeated Iraq 1-0 in the final of the last edition of the Asian Games held at their own backyard in 2006, have been adjusted in Group D alongside Kuwait, India and Singapore.

Hosts China have been accommodated in Group A with Malaysia, Kyrgyzstan and Japan. Group B includes Iran, Vietnam, Bahrain and Turkmenistan while Group C comprises of South Korea, Palestine, Jordan and North Korea.

Uzbekistan, UAE, Hong Kong and Bangladesh are in Group E. The top two teams from each group and the four best third-placed teams will qualify for the round of 16.

Another blow to Pakistan’s dreams was when three of their England-based probables were injured and are not likely to be fit for the Asian Games.

“We have received information that Amjad, Shabbir and Reis Ashraf have injured themselves while playing from their respective clubs in England and it looks that they will not be available for Pakistan’s duty,” Akhtar said.

However, he said that our key defender Atif Bashir is still on the cards and he has promised to join the camp by October 25.

Currently, 21 players including two England-based boys Faraz Ahmad and Shah Noor are in the camp being in operation in Lahore.