Two France-based players to join U22 camp as Pakistan prepare for Thailand trip

Alam Zeb Safi [The News]

KARACHI: Two France-based Pakistani footballers have arrived in Lahore to join the training camp of the national Under-22 team ahead of their expected tour of Thailand next week in connection with the preparations for the Asian Cup Qualifiers to be held from June 23 to July 1.

All 26 home-based footballers have been advised to report to coach Zavisa Milosavljevic for the camp on Tuesday (today). The training will start on Wednesday (tomorrow).

From among the six foreign-based players, who will undergo a test for their selection, two France-based boys Saeed Sarwar and Malik Mohammad Human Ali have already landed in Lahore.

Team sources said that England-based Imran Haq is also expected to reach Pakistan in the next four or five days. Besides, Osman Zulqarnain from Norway, Waleed Nadeem from Scotland and Bilal Butt from England are likely to join the team in Thailand. Pakistan are expected to tour Bangkok, most probably for a two-week tour, during which they are likely to play two matches against the senior team of the hosts and three against their Under-22 outfit. “Thailand have told us that we should send our team to Bangkok for a week but we want to send it for two weeks and we are hopeful that they will be convinced,” a PFF top official said.

After playing a few practice games in Thailand, Pakistan are likely to feature in an international tournament in Palestine near the end of May.

But the tour remains uncertain because Pakistan failed to tour Palestine last year after the Israeli government refused to issue NOC to the Palestine Football Association for the Greenshirts’ tour. Zavisa has done a tough job by picking the players for the Asian Cup Qualifiers by watching all the matches of the National Challenge Cup held in Karachi from March 11-23.

In the probables picked for the purpose, there are a few players who have also been representing Pakistan’s senior team which shows that a good young side could be raised for the qualifiers.

Goalkeepers Saqib Hanif, who has signed up with KRL recently, looked very impressive during the National Challenge Cup while representing National Youth A, while the other gloveman in the list Jahangir Khan from KESC emerged as the best goalkeeper of that event.

Similarly, Kaleemullah, Mehmood Khan, Mohammad Adil, Saddam Hussain, Rizwan Asif, Junaid Qadir, Mohammad bin Younis, Faisal Iqbal and Zakir Lashari are such players whose inclusion could turn the team more powerful for the competitive qualifiers.

Pakistan have been placed in Group B with Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Palestine and Sri Lanka.

According to the schedule, Pakistan will face Saudi Arabia on June 23 in their opener, followed by their matches against Sri Lanka on June 25, Kyrgyzstan on June 28, Syria on June 30 and Palestine on July 3. Forty-one member associations have entered the fray to grab 15 spots in the final competitions to be held in 2013.

The teams have been divided into six groups of six teams each and one group of five. They will play under one-round league format and the top two teams from each group will qualify for the tournament proper along with the best third-placed team in all the groups. The hosts of the finals will get an automatic berth as per rules.

Camp probables:
Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif (KRL), Muzammil Hussain (WAPDA), Tanveer Mumtaz (KRL), Jehangir Khan (KESC),
Defenders: Manzoor Ahmad, (WAPDA), Faisal Iqbal (NBP), Sadat Hussain (NBP), Naveed Ahmad (Navy) Mohammad Rizwan Asif (KRL), Ahsanullah (KRL), Abdul Salam (HBL),
Midfielders: Saddam Hussain (KRL), Mohammad Aadil (KRL), Zia Us Salam (KRL), Kaleemullah (KRL), Mehmood Khan (KRL), Imran Khan (Islamabad Academy), Mohammad Sher (NBP), Junaid Qadir (KPT), Roy Akmal Shehzad (NBP),
Strikers: Abdul Salam (KESC), Mohammad bin Younis (KPT), Hussain Abbas (KRL), Mansoor Khan (PAF), Osama Halim (Karachi United Academy), Zakir Lashari (HBL), Osman Zulqarnain (Norway), Imran Haq (England), Saeed Sarwar (France), Malik Mohammad Human Ali (France), Waleed Nadeem (Scotland), Bilal Butt (England).
Officials: Zavisa Milosavljevic (head coach), Gohar Zaman (manager/assistant coach), Syed Nasir Ismail (assistant coach), Aslam Khan (goalkeeping coach), Dr Kamran Mehdi (physiotherapist).