Goals from Muhammad Adil and Faisal Iqbal help Pakistan U22 fight back from 0-1 down at half time to draw hosts Palestine 2-2 in Al-Nakba International Football Cup 2012.
Pakistan needed a win the Group A game to make it to the last four but they failed to do so and had to pack their luggage and are were scheduled to fly back home late Saturday night.
After having failed to make a place directly in the semifinals, the Greenshirts also failed to do so through a back door as the best second placed side because Indonesia and Jordon were able to grab three points and were second in their respective groups.
But in spite of the result, Pakistan coach Zavisa Milosavljevic was happy with the way his side played against Palestine’s senior team.
“The boys played very well against Palestine which was the most senior and seasoned side of the teams featuring in the tournament,” Zavisa told ‘The News’ from Palestine on Saturday.
Palestine, who had also won a two-match series against Pakistan’s Olympic side 1-0 last year in Pakistan, got onto the score-sheet through Halman in the 24th minute. However, Pakistan fought back with a fine field effort when Mohammad Aadil scored on a free-kick from captain Kaleemullah in the 64th minute.
But hardly one minute later Palestine once again put themselves 2-1 ahead when Halman completed his brace to put pressure on the visitors. Pakistan, mostly comprising of players who are also playing for the national senior team, went all out and it paid dividends in the dying moments when vice-captain Faisal Iqbal capitalised on a pass from Mohammad Aadil.
Zavisa said Pakistan’s cause was damaged by the their goalless draw against Vietnam.
“The first match against Vietnam damaged our cause. Had we won that game, we could have qualified for the semifinals,” said the 52-year old Serbian coach.
Vietnam Under-19 team had held Pakistan to a goalless draw during which the conversion rate of Zavisa’s charges was pathetic as they missed out around seven easy chances.
Zavisa said that his team has shown a lot of improvement, despite the result.
“You know, it was one of the best matches the team has played so far and the boys played competitively,” said Zavisa, who has been working as Pakistan’s coach since November 5, 2011.
When quizzed why Pakistan failed to qualify for the semifinals, Zavisa said,” We did not come here to win as we are still in the preparatory phase for the Asian Cup Qualifiers.”
Pakistan are scheduled to feature in the 2013 Asian Cup Qualifiers Group B to be held in Saudi Arabia from June 23 to July 3. Apart from Pakistan and hosts Saudi Arabia, Syria, Kyrgyzstan, Sri Lanka and Palestine are the other teams featuring in the pool.
Zavisa said that he would like to hold the final camp for the Asian Cup Qualifiers from May 25 but was quick to add that he would be happy to hold it abroad.
“We plan to hold the final camp from May 25. We don’t need it in Pakistan but outside as we badly need three to four international matches before the vital showdowns in Saudi Arabia.”