SAFF Championship Preview: Pakistan vs. India

Shahrukh Sohail, Chief Editor, Kathmandu 


The highly-anticipated game kicks off tomorrow at the Darasath Rangasala Stadium, with the Pak Shaheens facing their arch-rivals.

Form Guide:


20-Aug-2013 Afghanistan 3 – Pakistan 0 FR
21-Mar-2013 Pakistan 2 – Macau 0 ACC
19-Mar-2013 Pakistan 0 – Kyrgyzstan 1 ACC
17-Mar-2013 Tajikistan 1 – Pakistan 0 ACC
14-Feb-2013 Maldives 3 – Pakistan 0 FR
12-Feb-2013 Maldives 1 – Pakistan 1 FR

 Although the Pak Shaheens lost their friendly tie against Afghanistan with a hefty 3-0 margin, the side have had some quality additions since then and even the coach has changed.

Zavisa Milosavljević was sacked hours after the torrid defeat, but his replacement Mohammad Al-Shamlan of Bahrain, will look to benefit from the Serbian’s extensive exposure tours earlier this year.

With only training and a game against Nepal’s U-19 side, Pakistan’s preparations are from ideal and they could lack in the match fitness department, but coach Shahzad Anwar is confident of securing victory against India.

“Earlier we played a practise match and we lost, but it’s not that important. We played in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and several other games this year, so that will help us and Insha’Allah we will we will get a good result,” the trainer added while talking to FootballPakistan.


14-Aug-2013 Tajikistan 3 – India 0 FR
06-Mar-2013 Myanmar 1 – India 0 ACC
04-Mar-2013 Guam 0 – India 4 ACC
02-Mar-2013 India 2 – Chinese Taipei 1 ACC
06-Feb-2013 India 2 – Palestine 4 FR

 Like their neighbours, Wim Koevermans and his troops have only played a single International friendly going into South Asia’s biggest tournament, although a high-profile local game against Bengaluru FC also took place.

Other than that, the Dutchman will be vary of other teams, especially considering his boys suffered a morale dampening 3-0 loss against Tajikistan.

Nonetheless, with their superior record in the Championship and a host of top players, Koevermans expressed his eagerness to come out on top, although he reiterated the journey was going to be far from easy.

“We have to treat each and every team with the same amount of respect. If we want to win the title, we will have to win five finals starting from Sunday (against Pakistan). There is of course a lot of pressure on us as everybody expects us to win and every team wants to beat India but we are ready for the challenge,” said the 1988 Euro Cup winner.

Team News:


With the inclusion of Mohammad Al-Shamlan, the Pak Shaheens are looking to benefit from attacking football last witnessed under Salman Sharida back in 2005/06. And luckily, they have been no injuries to the current squad, although a host of top names missed out, albeit owing to completely different reasons.

Nabil Aslam, who played in the UEFA Europa League last season with AC Horsens, was unable to make his documents on time (He later got injured as well) and was thus omitted from the final team sheet.

Muhammad Ali (BK Avarta) suffered a leg injury during his clash with International teammate Hassan Bashir’s Fremad Amagar, meaning that Kaleemullah (KRL) is likely to start up-front.

Amjad Iqbal (Bradford Park Avenue) was unable to get off from work and will be sorely missed at the back along with Shabbir Khan (Worcester City FC) and Atif Bashir (Barry Town), who are both out with long-term injuries.

On the brighter side, Zesh Rehman (Kitchee SC) expressed his desire to play in the SAFF Championship and was included in the team that has been training in Kathmandu for the past few days.

Rehman, alongside Yaqoob Butt (Skovshoved), Adnan Ahmad (Droylsden), Yousuf Butt (BK Glostrup Albertslund) and Hassan will be expected to start in their respective positions.

From the local lot, Kamran Khan and skipper Samar Ishaq (Both KRL) should be given the nod, while the coaches fret over Adnan’s partner in midfield.

Yasir Afridi, Naveed and Zia-us-Salam (All KRL) have looked impressive, but it was Afridi who caught the eye against Afghanistan and should be give a chance to shine with the former Manchester United trainee.

Defensively Pakistan are quite strong on paper and with Zesh’s English Premier League experience they have the potential to become a solid rock. However, the ex-Bradford City captain needs to step up his game for the Shaheens and answer his growing list of critics.


Koevermans has had his share of bad publicity but the tactician has sticked to his plan and will be hoping for a win as India go into the tournament as favourites.

Captain Sunil Chhetri will be integral to the team’s progression and the fans will be hoping that the former Sporting Lisbon forward has his scoring boots on at the Darasath Rangasala Stadium.

With no major concerns except Robin Singh’s slight injury, the squad will be raring to go.

   Expected Line-ups:                                                                                                                                                        













Key Players:

Pakistan: Hassan Bashir

The forward has been in good form for Pakistan and found the back of the net in his last game. And with 2 goals in 7 appearances, the new coach will be relying on his predatory instincts to gather three points from the first game.

India: Sunil Chhetri

The Bengaluru star is key to India’s hopes and the nation will be hoping for a repeat of the 2011 edition.

Author Prediction:

A game full of emotions and while the Pakistani hasn’t performed well as of late, they have the capability to surprise anyone on this tournament. However, unless their players click, the Pak Shaheens are unlikely to come out on top.

Pakistan 1:2 India