Colts start preparations for AFC qualifiers

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: After winning the SAFF title in Nepal, Pakistan colts will start their preparations for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-16 Championship 2012 qualifiers from Monday (tomorrow) in Lahore.

Pakistan have been placed in Group B with the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Yemen, Kuwait, Maldives and Afghanistan. All the matches of the group will be conducted at the Mohammed Al Hamad Stadium and Sabah Al Salem Stadium in Kuwait from September 12-22.

Pakistan will open their campaign on September 12 against Maldives, followed by their games against Kuwait on September14, UAE on September 17, Afghanistan on September 19, and against Yemen on September 22. Two teams from the group will make it to the tournament proper which will be held next year.

Overall 39 teams from the zones West (22 teams) and East (17) have been placed in seven different groups. The best third-placed team from West and East Zone will also qualify for next year’s tournament. The reigning Under-16 champions are DPR Korea.

The Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) have retained the same coaching panel of head coach Sajjad Mehmood and assistant coach Hasan Baloch for the qualifiers. Sajjad did a commendable job as he led the young brigade over India 2-1 in the SAFF final in Kathmandu on August 10. The same 22-man squad has also been retained.

“We will go with the same victorious lot in the camp,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi told ‘The News’ on Saturday.

The victorious side was given a two-day rest after their return from Nepal on Thursday. They will also be extended an Iftar dinner by the PFF at its headquarters in Lahore on Sunday (today).

Although Pakistan have two tough teams — UAE and Kuwait — in their group, Sajjad is confident that Pakistan would put them in trouble in the qualifiers.

“Although, I have not seen them but the youth batches from the Middle East are not that strong and we are confident that we will also beat them to make it to the tournament proper,” Sajjad said.

He said that the training sessions of the colts will be held at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore under floodlights due to the month of Ramadan.

“We have just returned after playing a major tournament. We know where we are facing problems and what is wrong with the boys. And every effort would be made during the camp to remove the deficiencies of the boys,” Sajjad said.

Squad: Usman Khan, Syed Hassan Mujtaba, Muhammad Boota (all goalkeepers), Malik Dilshad Ahmed, Muneer Aftab, Shahbaz Masih, Rashid Noor, Babar Ali, Basit Amin (all defenders), Bilal Asghar, Muhammad Sohail, Sanaullah, Raza Ali, Haider Ali, Muhammad Zeeshan, Yawar (all midfielders), Sher Ali, Ashfaq Uddin, Muhammad Bilal, Zain-Ul-Aabdeen, Mansoor Khan Tanzeel (strikers), Sajjad Mahmood (coach), Muhammad Hassan Baloch (assistant coach).