Lutfi exudes confidence ahead of World Cup qualifier

Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: Pakistan football team coach Tariq Lutfi has said that his charges are in ecstatic mood and will give a positive performance when they face Bangladesh in the first-leg of their FIFA World Cup 2014 qualifier to be held at the Bangabandhu Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday.

“Players’ morale and mental level is high and everyone wants to win and I believe that the result would be positive in Dhaka,” Lutfi told ‘The News’ in an interview on Sunday.

Pakistan are scheduled to fly out from here for Dhaka on Monday morning (today).

Lutfi admitted that the first-leg in Dhaka is more important as a win in that match will help boost chances of moving ahead.

“Our focus is on the match in Dhaka. If we are able to draw first blood, all the pressure will be on Bangladesh for the second-leg which will be hosted by Pakistan in Lahore on July3,” he said.

Pakistan held Bangladesh to a goalless draw in the last game the two sides played against their rivals during the SAFF Championship in Dhaka on December 6, 2009 when Austrian George Kottan was Pakistan’s coach.

However, after the SAFF event, Pakistan did not feature internationally until they played in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in Kuala Lumpur in March this year but failed to qualify for the main round after facing defeats at the hands of arch-rivals India and Turkmenistan. But Lutfi thinks that the team has gelled into a unit and will break the losing streak.

“Losing games always demoralises a team and even the authorities concerned. We also have some responsibilities and we will try our level best to do well in the qualifiers,” he said.

“What we are doing is preparing a solid combination for the future. We have installed young player Faisal Iqbal as deputy to skipper Jaffar Khan because we want to groom a young boy so that he could take the responsibility in future,” he pointed out.

Lutfi is also impressed with the fitness and rhythm of goalkeeper Jaffar Khan.

“After we missed two young goalies Mohammad Omar due to injury and out-of-form Aamir Gul, we picked Jaffar and worked on him and he has really got his top fitness and form. Being an experienced gloveman and a captain I hope that he will lead from the front in the qualifiers,” Lutfi said.

The coach is also satisfied with his frontline and said that the finishing has been improved a lot.

“Our players always miss chances which shatter the team’s morale. But luckily we have been able to gather few good strikers in the shape of Hasnain Abbas, Arif Mehmood, Mohammad Ikram, Mohammad Rasool, Kaleemullah and Mohammad Qasim and we have done a lot of work over them and I hope that they will perform better in the qualifiers,” Lutfi said.

The coach, understandably, feels that his team lacks in exposure.

“I feel that the team lacks in exposure. Had we got a training tour it would have been much better to test the players. But still we on our part, did the best we could to play seven practice games in Islamabad,” Lutfi concluded.