Greenshirts to start 2014 preparations next month

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan are more likely to start their preparatory campaign next month for the first round of the FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifiers against Bangladesh.

“I will soon meet the top officials of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) and will then chalk out a plan. But we would like to begin the preparation for the vital two-legged round against Bangladesh soon at the end of the National Challenge Cup which will conclude at the end of this month,” Pakistan’s head coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’ here on Friday.

“This is the right time to give some good news to the nation and the way we have raised the team through preparation in the last two months, I am optimistic that we will beat Bangladesh in both the legs this time,” Lutfi, who replaced Akhtar Mohiuddin in January, said.

Both the teams will clash each other in the qualifiers on June 29 and July3 on home and away basis in a yet to be decided venues.

It will be the first meeting between the two nations since their goalless draw encounter of the SAFF Championship in December, 2009, when Austrian George Kottan was Pakistan’s coach.

The coach ruled out any drastic changes in the side recently played in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur.

“There would be no such major changes in the lot already used this year in international circuit, but I will try to pick some more players, the fitter ones, for the camp during the National Challenge Cup,” Lutfi said.

Before fielding in the World Cup qualifiers against Bangladesh, besides the already scheduled couple of encounters against Palestine, Pakistan are also expected to play four or five matches against other nations.

“We believe that the team needs a lot of exposure but it is possible only if you have hefty amount in your purse. We are always short of funds but still we would like to see our team play more international matches before or after the Palestine trip against countries like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan etc,” the PFF President Faisal Saleh Hayat told ‘The News’ on Friday.

The PFF chief added that Pakistan direly need a foreign coach to raise the team further.