With Pakistan finally seeing some International action, FPDC goes in-depth to record the highs and lows during the Green Kickers’ visit to Kathmandu.
Shahrukh Sohail, Senior Correspondent, Islamabad
Finally, after quite some time of waiting, Pakistani football fans savoured some much needed wins.
Nepal looked the better of both sides in terms of their slick passing and swift counter-attacks, but it’s getting the ball into the back of the net that really counts and that is what exactly Pakistan did, despite playing quite poorly in midfield.
However, there were a number of positives that ultimately came out of the two-match series, in which the Green Shirts surprisingly triumphed twice with identical 1-0 score lines.
First and foremost, we start the analysis with Pakistan’s most highlighted problem in recent times – Finishing.
During Zavisa Milosavljević’s reign, we have seen Jadeed Khan, Mohammad Rasool and Kaleemullah lead the line, but while the forwards boast prolific tallies in the Premier League; their inability to convert chances into goals on the International stage has been there for all to see.
Step in Hassan Bashir.
The Great Dane has endured himself to the Pakistani supporters in only his 3rd cap and already has a goal and assist to his name, both of which handed away wins in two separate matches against Nepal.
In Muhammad Ali’s absence, Bashir has led the line with uncommon ease and has shown his predatory instincts by bailing out his nation consecutively. The player’s seamless integration into the side can also be measured by the fact that his superb assist led to Muhammad Mujahid’s winner in the second game, although the PAF man himself has also been impressive in recent times.
Long have been wanting such a lethal attacking force and hopefully the front-men can continue their lethal form going into the matches against Maldives.
While Bashir may hog the headlines, the surprisingly solid defence led by KRL stalwarts Kamran Khan and Samar Ishaq has been the one of the undoubted highlights of the friendly ties. Yes, Worcester City’s Shabbir Khan may have played an integral role in the backline, but don’t take away credit from vice-captain Ishaq and Khan, who may well pose a major threat to Pakistan’s UEFA Europa League star Nabil Aslam and former Premier League centre-back Zesh Rehman during next month’s AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers.
Although an improvement has definitely been witnessed in the last two games, the baffling choice of Yasir Afridi in midfield has been detriment to Pakistan’s scoring abilities, as no passing in the middle of the park was witnessed at the Darasath Rangasala Stadium. The KRL playmaker is simply no match for the creative genius of Adnan Ahmed and that was evident as the visitors failed to notch together a single attacking combination. However, the decision to play Afridi was shocking even more so, because coach Zavisa has Denmark-based Yacoob Butt on the bench and so the far the defensive rock has only had a few seconds under his belt, that too in the second game.
Utilizing foreign resources is key to winning for Pakistan and Yacoob definitely needs to start against Maldives in order to contain their slick passing and create more chances for Hassan up-front.
While the calls for Yacoob have been justified by Afridi’s woeful performances, which now linger ever closer to a sending off, Jaffar Khan has surprisingly been quite strong between the posts and being the team’s skipper, he is unlikely to be switched in favour of Yousuf Butt, who despite his Danish pedigree has yet to really be tested on the International arena.
However, one area where the captain really needs to work on is his ball distribution, which can only be described as high punts into the opposing defence and leave no margin for his own players to control the ball and start an attack.
All in all, two games against Nepal were a resounding success for Pakistan and one can only hope that they repeat the feat when playing against the likes of Ali Ashfaq in Male.