Pakistan to get major boost ahead of 2014 qualifier

Alam Zeb Safi

KARACHI: The Pakistan football team is set to get a major boost ahead of their World Cup qualifier against Bangladesh as foreign-based players Adnan Farooq Ahmed and Atif Bashir will join the camp in Islamabad in a couple of days while Zeshan Rehman’s arrival schedule will soon be confirmed.

“Midfielder Adnan Farooq Ahmed (Aboomoslem FC, Iran) will arrive on June 20 while defender Atif Bashir Qureshi (Barry Town, Wales) will reach Islamabad on June 21,” a top official of the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) confirmed to ‘The News’ on Saturday.

“Zeeshan’s arrival schedule is yet to be known. We have sent him the ticket and most probably he will join the team in Dhaka. He is a professional player and he will face no problem in adjustment,” the official said.

An 18-member team will be fielded in the qualifiers. The winners of the first round will then clash with Lebanon in the second round penciled in for July 24 and 28.

Pakistan, who had shifted their camp from Lahore to Islamabad on June 10 have played few practice games at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad. They defeated Islamabad XI 7-0 before they snatched identical 2-0 victories against Khan Research Laboratories (KRL) in their other two practice games. The team is yet to face Pakistan Air Force (PAF) and Navy to get ample practice ahead of the key game against Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Pakistan reduced their probables in the camp to 19 after dropping the KRL duo of Rizwan Asif and Adil Ahmed along with WAPDA Mohammad Asif and Jadeed Khan Pathan.

“Yes, we have dropped Rizwan, Adil, Pathan and Mohammad Asif,” coach Tariq Lutfi told ‘The News’. Striker Jadeed Khan Pathan, who led Pakistan in the Olympic qualifiers against Malaysia recently, was sick and not fully fit. “He was not feeling well and therefore unable to get rhythm and therefore we dropped him,” Lutfi said.

The coach will have to further drop four more players in order to announce the final squad next week. Similarly, experienced striker Arif Mehmood, who suffered from a knee injury in a practice game few days back, has started light raining.

“Arif has started light training and we are watching him keenly. He is our main striker and we need his services for the vital showdown,” Lutfi said.

After consistently failing at international level for the last 18 months, Pakistan need a breakthrough and with the support of the key foreign-based trio it seems to be a perfect chance for the Greenshirts to shine in the first round of the qualifiers. Although Pakistan did not get a foreign tour ahead of the qualifiers, most of the players in the camp have been featuring in different international events since last March and are ready for the challenge.