Mohiuddin targets Asian Games knockout round

KARACHI: Pakistan’s football squad for the Asian Games will depart for China today with coach Akhtar Mohiuddin eyeing the knockout stages following intense training in Islamabad.

The Pakistan under-23 squad will launch their campaign on November 7 against Thailand.

“We’re targeting the knockout stages,” Mohiuddin told The Express Tribune. “Pakistan have participated in the Asian Games seven times and we never got beyond the pool stages so it’s time to change that.”

According to Mohiuddin, the team will rely heavily on goal-keeper Jaffar Khan, defender Samar Khan, UK-based full-back Atif Bashir and attacking midfielder Yasir Afridi as they have been performing well in the camp. Pakistan, according to the coach, have a good chance of cruising into the knock-out stage as the team is young and energetic and has nothing to lose against stronger sides such as Thailand (108) as well as Maldives (135) and Oman (120).

Despite the good show by the team in the training camp, including practice matches in which the team did not concede any goals, Mohiuddin said that the team had to improve on their technique. The presence of Graham Roberts — hired as a coaching consultant — had also helped the confidence of the players given that none of them had international exposure, according to the coach.

“Although the team is fit, he and I have worked hard on the areas where the team was lacking, the accuracy of passes. Roberts worked hard with the thought-process and mentally coached them about the temperament.”

However, according to PFF General Secretary Ahmed Yar Lodhi, Roberts’ future depends on the team’s performance in China.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 4th, 2010.