KARACHI: Pakistan football team’s former skipper Mohammad Essa has expressed concern over the late availability of the foreign-based players for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Challenge Cup Qualifiers, saying it would affect the coach’s planning.
“I once again say that foreign-based players should have been in the national team’s camp by now. Their joining the team late or going directly to Kyrgyzstan will dent Pakistan’s chances in the event,” Essa told ‘The News’ in an interview from his hometown Chaman on Tuesday.
He was quick to add that it was good to have foreign-based players in the team but it was extremely important to have them in the camp for around 20 days ahead of any event so that the coach could train the whole unit on a particular pattern. “If these players come directly or join the camp for only a few days, it will disturb the whole mindset and purpose of the coach,” he said.“How would the team perform in such a major event when the coach has not yet finalised the squad due to uncertainty about players’ availability?” he said.
Pakistan have invited eight foreign-based players, but by Tuesday evening coach Zavisa Milosavljevic had not received any response from their respective clubs about their release. Pakistan have been bracketed in Group B with former champions Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Macau in the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers, which will be held in Kyrgyzstan from March 17 to 21.
Essa said that the qualifiers would be a tough challenge for the Serbian coach Zavisa. “I think the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) did its job by providing all the required foreign tours and good exposure to the team. Now it depends on how the coach plans and how he handles the team in pressure situation,” said Essa, one of the finest playmakers the country has ever produced.
He said if Pakistan played their natural game the result could be encouraging. “The boys should play their normal aggressive game with through passes as Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan are not the type of teams which Pakistan cannot beat. In the first edition of the AFC Challenge Cup Qualifiers in Bangladesh in 2006 we lost to Tajikistan 2-0, beat Kyrgyzstan 1-0 and held Macau 2-2,” said the 29-year-old Essa.
“Tajikistan in particular are strong technically and physically and to play against them with short, ground passes as Zavisa thinks will not work. Only through rough and tough approach and long ball can we disturb them,” Essa said.
He also questioned the selection of the team. “I think there are seven or eight players in the current side who don’t deserve to be included,” Essa pointed out.
“KRL striker Mohammad Qasim, KESC striker Mohammad Rasool and KRL midfielder Mehmood Khan should have been in the team,” Essa said.
Pakistan will face the inaugural edition’s winners Tajikistan on March 17 in their opener, Kyrgyzstan on March 19 and Macau on March 21. One team from the pool will qualify for the main round to be held next year