Pakistan devise ‘positive’ strategy for today’s semifinal against Bangladesh

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Sajjad Mehmood, the Pakistan Under-16 football team coach, on Sunday said that he has made a comprehensive plan and is confident that his charges will beat Bangladesh in their semifinal clash of the inaugural South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) Under-16 Championships at the Dashrath Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu on Monday (today).

“We have made a positive plan for tomorrow’s game and I am hopeful that we will beat Bangladesh to move into the final,” Sajjad told ‘The News’ from Kathmandu after Pakistan team’s practice session in the evening at the Police Ground on Sunday.

But the news from Kathmandu is not encouraging for football as the country has been in the grip of a heavy downpour for the last couple of days and the Greenshirts had to practice in the rain.

“We held a practice session in the rain today as we want the boys to learn how to play in such difficult conditions,” the coach said.

“Still there is a light rain continuing here and even if it does not rain any more tomorrow I don’t think that the pitch will be in good condition for our game against Bangladesh,” Sajjad feared.

The match starts 12:15pm PST.

Pakistan cruised into the semifinals after having emerged as Group A leaders after beating both India and Maldives while Bangladesh ended as runners-up in Group B after they shared four points each with the leaders Nepal who topped the pool on the basis of a better goal-difference.

Nepal will lock horns with Group A runners-up India in the second semifinal on Monday (today). Media in Nepal are rating Pakistan as hot favourites for the title.

“The media here are rating Pakistan as the top contenders for the title and its support has really boosted our morale,” Sajjad said.

Sajjad said that Bangladesh are a good team but Pakistan will exploit their weaknesses in Monday’s game.

“No doubt Bangladesh are a good side and their players are technically sound. They also have the experience of playing in rains but we know where cracks could be made in their wall. We also have to cover their two vital midfielders tomorrow so that they could not feed more their frontline. And I think we will be able to beat them in the stipulated 90 minutes to reach the final,” he said.

As per rules of the six-team event, direct penalties will be given if a semifinal ends in a draw in the scheduled time.

Sajjad said that Pakistan’s goalkeeper Usman Khan has the guts to save penalties. “I have faith in goalkeeper Usman and he is the boy capable enough to tackle the pressure of penalty shootouts in case our semifinal ends in a draw tomorrow in the stipulated time,” he said.

“If we are able to win the title, it will motivate our senior team as well who has been unlucky to perform,” he 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), Dr Kamran Mehdi (physiotherapist).