Pak U22 in must-win situation against host Palestine

Alam Zeb Safi
Friday, May 18, 2012 [The News]

KARACHI: Pakistan Under-22 football team will be eying a win when they face Palestine’s senior team in their do-or-die Group A battle of the Al-Nakba International Football tournament at the Dura Stadium in Palestine on Friday (today).

The match starts at 8:00pm PST.

Pakistan, who were surprisingly held by Vietnam Under-19 team to a goalless draw in their opener on Wednesday, need to notch off a win to ensure their place in the May 21 semifinals of the nine-team event being held for the second year in a run.

As usual Pakistan have been facing problems in the fighting zone as their frontline were unable to convert even the easiest of chances against the Vietnamese.

Palestine, who have three points and are at the top in their group, need a mere draw to move into the semifinals.

Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic looked uneasy after his team’s poor show against Vietnam but voiced optimism that Pakistan would go all out against Palestine to produce a better result. “Definitely, we need a win and we, like always, will play aggressive game against Palestine who are playing with their senior team and a lot of crowd will also be at their back,” Zavisa told ‘The News’ from Beit Lahm Inn on Thursday.

He claimed that the boys were fitter and ready for the vital showdown. “There is no injury to any one and after the game against Vietnam we have worked hard on the boys and have motivated them and I believe that they will perform better against a tough side,” added the 52-year-old coach, who replaced Tariq Lutfi last year.

When quizzed why Pakistan failed to beat Vietnam in their first game, Zavisa blamed poor finishing. “We were really on offensive against Vietnam but you know our players missed six or seven open net chances which harmed us a lot,” the coach revealed. “Zakir Lashari saw his two hits miss the cross bar, and then Mehmood Khan and Kaleemullah also failed to convert a handful of chances,” Zavisa said.

The coach has warned his charges that they would have to make an extra effort to produce the desired result. “If we compare Palestine to the rest of the participating teams in the tournament, we will find them more experienced and tougher but if we convert chances against them tomorrow the result could be interesting,” Zavisa said.

Artificial turfs are being used for the tournament and Zavisa said that he did not have the knowledge before flying for Palestine that his team would have to play on this kind of turf. “We did not know before the tournament that we will be playing on an artificial turf. There is difference between grassy and artificial turf but I would say that other teams are also facing the same problems,” Zavisa said.

He recalled that the weather was windy during Pakistan’s match against Vietnam and the players were facing problems in controlling the ball.

He was all praise for the hospitality being extended. “We are very happy here and the hosts are very hospitable,” Zavisa said. After this tournament, Pakistan have to feature in the Asian Cup Qualifiers in Saudi Arabia from June 23 to July 3.