Pakistan face Malaysia as race for Olympic spot begins

By Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

KARACHI: Pakistan football team head coach Tariq Lutfi has said that his team is ready to perform well against Malaysia in their away leg of the first round of the Olympic qualifiers which will be held at the Shah Alam Stadium in Selangor, Malaysia, on Wednesday (today).

“All the players are fit and ready to perform,” Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’ on Tuesday after an hour-long practice session of the Greenshirts at the Shah Alam Stadium, having a capacity of 69372.

He admitted that it would be an intriguing game as both the teams have prepared well for the tough competition.

“Pakistan’s two-week tour of Thailand and four practice games against tough teams there have instilled a lot of confidence in the players and they are in good spirit to put in their hundred per cent. Malaysia is also a very fine team and has been performing well in recent times and I believe that it would be a cracking show,” Lutfi, who replaced Akhtar Mohiuddin as Pakistanís head coach last month, said.

Malaysian football is on a roll at the moment with the senior team recently winning the AFF Suzuki Cup and the ASEAN Championship in Laos in 2009.

Pakistan has been lucky this time to have got a fine opportunity of holding a two-week camp in Bangkok and there should be no excuse from any quarter if the team fails to deliver against Malaysia in today’s game.

Lutfi was satisfied with his team’s performance in the practice matches in Thailand.

“Though we did not win any match in Thailand but our boys learnt a lot after playing with those tough teams also having foreign players including those from Brazil,” he said.

“We will go with 4-2-3-1 formation as the boys are used to it and will yield positive result,” the coach said.

“If our team clicks today, then it would augment our chances to make it for the second round as we will have to host Malaysia in the second-leg on March 9 at Lahore and there we will have an upper hand because of home conditions,” Lutfi said.

He said that the environment is very good in Shah Alam and although the pitch is a bit heavy with not too much grass on it but he is confident that his players will not face any problem because of their excellent physical condition.

Lutfi has full faith in his Denmark-based goalkeeper Yousuf Butt and he is expected to act as a main goalie in today’s match being held under floodlights (1745 PST).

“Yes, Yousuf is more mature and has got confidence and he is sure to be our main goalkeeper in today’s show,” the coach said.

Around ten thousand fans are expected to witness the game, Pakistan’s team media manager Irfan Niazi, who was silently sent to Malaysia by the PFF the other day, told this correspondent.

Liu Kwok Man from Hong Kong will supervise the match while his countrymen Chan Shui Hung and Chow Chun Kit will serve as his deputies. Ng Kai Lam will be the fourth official.

Pakistan squad: Yousuf Ejaz Butt, Amir Gul, Muhammad Omar, Manzoor Ahmed, Alamgir Khan, Ahsan Ullah, Obaid Majeed, Ansar Abbas, Faisal Iqbal, Syed Arif Hussain, Muhammad Tauseef, Muhammad Adil, Mehmood Khan, Irfan Khan, Saddam Hussain, Fahad Ullah Khan, Jadeed Khan Pathan (captain), Rizwan Asif, Kalim Ullah.