By Shahrukh Sohail, Senior Correspondent, Islamabad
The Green Shirts take on Singapore’s U-23 team at the Bishan Stadium today before the crunch tie with the seniors on Monday.
The Singaporean F.A has taken great measures to ensure the side’s success on the International front, allowing the troops to form a club that has played in the S-League for the past few years and these days, the Malaysian Super League as well.
With such efforts, positive results were inevitable and as demonstrated by wins over Thailand and Cambodia, the future looks increasingly bright for the country.
Under Zavisa Milosavljević, the Green Kickers ended their SAFF Cup run with three draws and no defeat. However that wasn’t enough to secure a berth in the latter stages of the competition and Pakistan returned home early.
The PFF haven’t arranged any matches for the senior team since last December and a much-hyped about series with Palestine came to an unsavoury conclusion as the Federation weren’t able to secure a venue in time.
So as such, Pakistan goes into the clash woefully unprepared but if their performances are anything to come by, the end result could be a surprise for both sets of supporters.
With the game not being considered as an official FIFA friendly, Singapore have the option of playing foreign stars who have not received their citizenship for the country.
France’s Sirina Camara and Jonathan Toto are in contention for a place in the squad alongside Canada’s Sherif El-Masri and Denmark’s Benjamin Lee.
The talented quartet will be Pakistan’s major Achilles heel and should be the players which coach Zavisa points out in his tactical briefing.
The Serbian trainer has already kicked out Jadeed Khan Pathan and Saqib Hanif from the squad and after placing an emphasis on foreign players, there could be some glittering names on display against the young Singaporeans.
Starting with the goalkeeping position, Zavisa has a number of options including skipper Jaffar Khan, BK Glostrup Albertslund’s Yusuf Butt and Jehangir Khan.
Considering his displays in India last time out, Jaffar should be expected to start, while Butt and Khan will try to make an impact from the bench if afforded the chance by the manager.
In the backline, Pakistan has its major strength at the moment with FK Tønsberg’s Omar Malik raring to go for the Green Shirts in central defence. Joining him will be Samar Ishaq, who should deputize until former Fulham star Zesh Rehman joins the team.
Worcester City left-back Shabir Khan is also on the books, but like Rehman, is yet to reach Singapore and will not be featuring tomorrow. Faisal Iqbal could potentially take his place, while Mohammad Ahmad continues on the right.
In midfield, Adnan Ahmed is a sure starter, while Kaleemullah’s sensational form means that his selection is a no brainer. However, the KRL star has failed to carry his domestic goal scoring prowess onto the International front and if he fails on this occasion as well that could end his time with the National team far earlier than expected. Alongside the duo, Muhammad Adil and Zia-ul-Salam could form the rest of the midfield that is expected to be heartbeat of the team.
Hassan Bashir and Muhammad Ali, both of Hellerup IK and BK Avarta respectively, are the most potent attacking duo Pakistan has on paper and if they team up, the side’s history of missing chances could soon be a forgotten nightmare.
After taking most of the domestic players on tour during the U-22 AFC Qualifiers, Zavisa’s boys failed to provide the required result and since then, the former Lesotho manager has placed an emphasis on foreigners, calling up as many as seven this time around.
However, whether the side gels together and gets the better of Singapore remains to be seen, although Pakistan’s chances have never been this high to pull off an upset.
Singapore U-23 1-1 Pakistan
Singapore vs Pakistan Friendly Football Matches in Singapore-2012
Singapore Vs Pakistan Friendly Matches-2012 Fixtures
Match # 1 Singapore U23 Vs Pakistan @ 16:45PST (19:45 SST) @ Bishan Stadium, Singapore on Friday, November 16, 2012.
Match # 2 Singapore Vs Pakistan @ 16:45PST (19:45 SST) @ Jurong West Stadium, Singapore on Monday, November 19, 2012.