Pakistan, Malaysia announce squads as Asian qualifiers for 2012 Olympics begin

Pakistan’s coach Tariq Lufi hopes Pakistani youngsters are not put under any pressure as they strive to develop into international-calibre players. “It’s normal for the public to expect a lot from this game but it is not fair to judge these young players because they need time to develop. If you expect a lot, it will put a lot of pressure on them,”said Tariq “You can’t have results without giving time for preparation and development.” Pakistan will take on Malaysia in Olympic Qualifier first leg at Shah Alam Stadium on Wednesday, 23 February 2011 (8.45 PM Kick Off).

Malaysia are probably one of the finest U21 national teams in recent times, and coach Ong Kim Swee believes his boys have the experience and pedigree to qualify for the 2012 London Games if they play to their potential. In the training squad, Kim Swee has six players from the AFF Suzuki Cup-winning side and also trainees who have had short stints with the national senior squad over the past year.

The players have also become more confident after their stint in Slovakia, where they were exposed to high quality matches, playing 14 competitive matches in the Slovakian Division One – a rung lower than the Slovakian Super League. They also completed four matches in the ongoing Malaysian Super League .

Pakistan U21 team completed sixth visit of Thailand on Sunday with three warm up matches against clubs and U21 international friendly against Thailand U21 during two-week Camp from 7-20 February. The previous journeys of Pakistan were seen in 1981, 2001, 2004 and 2009 while Pakistan U16 team visited the country in 1992 for Coca Cola Cup. It turned out to be second ever visit of Thailand for Tariq Lutfi (PIA), after 1992 age-group event, as Pakistani coach who earned one-year coaching assignment for National Team from Pakistan Football Federation (PFF)’s President Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat on 15 January 2011. “The deal is for full 2011 but hopefully it will lead to a longer term agreement,” said Tariq who is on verge of retirement from PIA, already appeared in his last Pakistan Premier Football League. He will also coached Pakistan in coming 4-test Series against Palestine.

The football atmosphere in the two countries cannot be more different, as the two teams – Pakistan, Malaysia – prepare for their Olympic qualifiers. Malaysia are on a high after being crowned Asean champions for the first time last month, while Pakistan  continue to search for answers after three penalty kick misses in as many events. Malaysia have been together for the best part of four years and they have had time to build a team of players able to take the international stage.

“This team have played regularly in the Malaysian league and they are very lucky that (national coach) K Rajagopal is exposing a lot of young players to international games. That really helps develop confidence, and confidence is very important,” said Tariq.

Meanwhile Malaysian U21 coach  Ong Kim Swee said that “Playing against Pakistan is quite special, it brings back memories of the Merdeka Cup days where Pakistan faced Malaysia twice … and because our senior team has done well recently, there is definitely pressure on us to do well,” he said.

Both Tariq and Ong admitted that “The result will be important but we must look at player development, of course.”

Defender Muhammad Muslim Ahmed will lead Malaysia U21, as Olympic Qualifiers will commence with ten matches at various countries. With up to eight players from the AFF-winning side eligible to play for the Olympic team, Ong Kim Swee-coached Kim Swee is not short of experienced hands.

“We will give it a good go and fight for it. It is good that everyone now is believing in the Pakistan U21 team and to target Olympic qualification is a positive move,” answered Pakistan coach Tariq Lutfi. Pakistan U21 have been pitted against Malaysia U21 team, also known as the Harimau Muda ‘A’,  with the first leg to be played in Kuala Lumpur on 23 Feb and the return leg at Lahore on 9 March.

Malaysia’s current Olympic side are probably one of the finest U21 teams in recent times, and coach Ong  believes his boys have the experience and pedigree to face Tariq Litfi-coached Pakistan. But Ong does not want his boys to take their South Asian opponents lightly. “Although Pakistan have not registered exceptional results over the years due to vital penalty-kick misses, it does not mean they would be easy opponents. I need my boys to stay focused and serious about the match,” said Ong.

“I’ve done my homework on Pakistan. I’ve watched their matches on video recordings and also checked their background. They are a decent side. “Their preparations show that every team is very serious in wanting to qualify for the Olympics. We have to fully use our home ground advantage because I have been told that this can be quite difficult in Lahore,”

In the training squad, Ong has six players from the AFF Suzuki Cup-winning side and also trainees who have had short stints with the national senior squad over the past year.The players have also become more confident after their stint in Slovakia, where they were exposed to high quality matches against second division teams. “My boys did not have the best starts in Slovakia but slowly improved and went on to record good results. The stint taught the boys to play more confident football and have been progressing steadily since that Slovakia stint.,” Ong added.

The road to the 2012 London Olympics is long and tedious as 35 teams have entered the fray to grab the three-and-a-half slots reserved for the continent for the Olympics. The winner of Pakistan/Malaysia clash will advance to the second round of 24 teams on June 19 and June 23. where Asia’s 13 highest ranked teams Australia, South Korea, Japan, Saudi Arabia etc. will join the eleven winners from round 1.The twelve winners from the second round will be drawn into three groups of four teams each, playing six matches from 21 Sep 2011 to 14 March 2012.

The top team in each group will automatically earn a place in the 2012 London Olympics while the runners-up in each group will then compete in a  playoff at neutral venue.The playoff winners will advance to another playoff against the fourth-ranked African team for a berth at London 2012.

Meanwhile, FIFA and AFC  have jointly decided that the Wednesday match between Yemen and Singapore is to be postponed by one week, namely for 2 March 2011. The joint decision was taken in order to ensure that all parties concerned can organise this match and play it in a totally safe and secure environment. In the event that the situation in Yemen does not clearly improve in the next days, the match would need to take place on neutral ground; in such case, the venue would be selected in consultation with all the parties concerned, including the national associations of Yemen and Singapore. Other matches to be played on Wednesday are Thailand vs Palestine, Jordan vs Chinese Taipei, Kuwait vs Bangladesh, Malaysia vs Pakistan, UAE vs Sri Lanka (postponed), India vs Myanmar, Oman vs Tajikistan, Indonesia vs Turkmenistan, Iran vs Kyrgyzstan and Hong Kong vs Maldives

The coaches of U21 football teams Pakistan and Malaysia – Tariq Lutfi, Ong Kim Swee– have announced their squads for Wednesday, 23 February clash in  London Olympics Football Qualifier at Shah Alam Stadium, Selangor State.

Following are two teams:

Pakistan U21 Team

Goal keepers: Yousuf Ejaz Butt (Birkerod IF Skjold, Denmark), Amir Gul (NBP), Muhammad Omar (KESC)

Defenders: Manzoor Ahmed (WAPDA), Alamgir Khan (Police), Ahsan Ullah (PEL), Obaid Majeed (KPT), Ansar Abbas (Army)
Midfielders: Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Syed Arif Hussain (WAPDA), Muhammad Tauseef (WAPDA), Muhammad Adil (KRL), Mahmood Khan (KRL), Irfan Khan (Bradford Park Avenue Association Football Club, England)

Strikers: Saddam Hussain (PIA), Fahad Ullah Khan (PTV), Jadeed Khan Pathan (WAPDA) CAP, Rizwan Asif (KRL) VC, Kalim Ullah ( KRL)

Malaysia U21 Team:

Goal Keepers : Khairul Fahmi Che Mat (Kelantan), Mohd Izham Tarmizi Roslan (Harimau Muda A)

Defenders: Mohamad Muslim Ahmad CAP, Mohd Affize Faisal Mamat, Mohd Faizal Muhamad, Mahalli Jasuli, Mohamad Fadhli Mohd Shas, Mohd Fandi Othman (Harimau Muda A)

Midfielders:  K. Gurusamy VC, Wan Zaharulnizam, Mohd Irfan Fazail, Robbat Gary Steven, S. Sivanesan, Wan Zack Haikal (Harimau Muda A), Mohamad Faizal Abu Bakar (Kedah)

Strikers: Mohd Ferris Daniel Mat Nasir )Harimau Muda A), Ahmad Shakir Ali (Kedah), Ahmad Fakri Saarani (Negeri Sembilan)

Stand byes: V. Kavi Chelvan,  Muhammad Zamir Selamat, Nazirul Naim Che Hashim, A. Thamil Arasu, Wan Nor Wan Zakarian, Muhammad Nazmi Faiz, D. Saarvindran, Abdul Shukor Jusoh.

Wednesday Fixture :

Iran  v  Kyrgyzstan (Azadi Stadium, Tehran 3 PM)

Indonesia  v  Turkmenistan (Gelora Sriwijaya Stadium, Palembang 5 PM)

Thailand  v  Palestine (Suphachalasai Stadium, Bangkok 6 PM)

Kuwait  v  Bangladesh (Mohammed Al-Hamad Stadium, Hawally 6.20 PM)

Oman  v  Tajikistan (Seeb Stadium, Muscat 6.30 PM)

Jordan  v  Chinese Taipei (King Abdullah Stadium, Amman 7 PM)

India  v  Myanmar (Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, Pune 7 PM)

Hong Kong  v  Maldives (Hong Kong Stadium, Hong Kong 8 PM )

Malaysia  v  Pakistan (Shah Alam Stadium, Selangor 8.45 PM)

Note : Yemen  v  Singapore (Ali Muhesen Stadium, Sana’a) will be played on 2 March and United Arab Emirates  v  Sri Lanka (Baniyas Stadium, Bani Yas) on 8 March