Pakistan face strong Palestine test in international friendly [PREVIEW]

Pakistan face strong Palestine test in international friendly [PREVIEW]

The Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in the Palestinian city of Al-Ram will host an interesting encounter between Pakistan and home side Palestine today, 16 November 2018, at around 3 PM local time (6 PM PST).

Ranked 99th in the world, Palestine are preparing strongly for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup just 50 days away in UAE and would want a strong result against 199th ranked Pakistan at home. Many Palestinian players are eager to show their worth for an Asian Cup appearance and are not expected to take the friendly as a mere formality.

Pakistan, on the other hand, have a tall ask. With international football only returning to Pakistan back in August after more than 3 years in wilderness due to the PFF political crisis, coach Jose Antonio Nogueira has picked an interesting 17-man squad for the friendly.

Some of the squad that reached the semi-finals of the SAFF Suzuki Cup in September returns to action but with some surprising changes made by the staff during the week long training camp in Lahore. The likes of K-Electric star Muhammad Riaz and WAPDA winger Ahmad Faheem have been surprisingly dropped despite their form in the ongoing Pakistan Premier Football League season while SSGC’s Mehmood Khan – despite not being a starter anymore – retains his spot in the National Team.

Also, much to the disappointment of Chitral-based fans, current PPFL 2018 top scorer Muhammad Rasool (K-Electric) and Iftikhar Ali Khan (KRL) were not even called up for the Palestine friendly training camp despite their goals at home. Star striker Kaleemullah Khan – now playing at Igdirspor in Turkey – was again not selected after a much publicised public spat with the PFF around the SAFF Cup despite hitting form and goals at his new club this season.

Unfortunately, coach Nogueira has yet to explain the reasoning behind his selection choices to the press owing to PFF’s strange gag-order on speaking to media for all players and coaches unless allowed to.

With Denmark-based Yousuf Butt in goal as always, his brother Yaqoob Butt marks his Pakistan return since 2013 and could likely partner the experienced Zesh Rehman in defence with the younger likes of Naveed Ahmed (Navy), Umar Hayat (WAPDA), and Mehdi Hassan (PAF) likely to compete for fullback spots and could be a source of vulnerability against a much stronger Palestine side.

Canada-based trialist Navid Rahman is expected to make his international debut after impressing Nogueira in the camp due to his midfield play and experience in the Slovak and Dutch lower leagues over the past year. Navid, who may likely partner captain Saddam Hussain in midfield, got selected ahead of his brother Adel who couldnt make the cut thus far. KRL’s impressive Umair Ali and PCAA’s Zain ul Abideen would certainly want to make their mark.

Holding possession in middle will be key if Pakistan is to avoid being overwhelmed by the home side. In SAFF Cup, the midfield trio of Saddam, Mehmood, and USA-based Abdullah Qazi struggled repeatedly to keep possession.

But in attack its where Pakistan would want to test Palestinian defences as the experienced Denmark-based attacking trio of Muhammad Ali, Hassan Bashir, and Adnan Mohammad Yaqoob would want to make their make. While Ali and Hassan impressed in SAFF Cup, Adnan was unfortunate to miss out in September due to visa issues but will now make his debut for the Shaheens.

A certain Pakistan star, Adnan will look to show why he has become a crucial attacking threat for his club Lyngby after impressing at Helsingor in the Danish Superliga last season despite relegation. Joining them is PAF’s talented star Mansoor Khan who has become a key player for PAF’s title push in the PPFL 2018 so far. Mansoor would be a good support as a second striker behind Hassan or on the wings should Ali and Adnan also start.

Undoubtedly, coach Jose Antonio Nogueira has his sights for important assignments in 2019. Next year sees Pakistan expected to take part in the South Asian Games and AFC U23 Championship qualifiers – both scheduled in March 2019 – that involve the U23 side. This would explain why many of the local players selected are of U23 level.

Furthermore, depending on how the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) plans ahead, the 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifiers for Asia are also expected to begin sometime in 2019. The Qatar 2022 qualifiers may also be joint qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup the way Russia 2018 qualifiers also served purpose for UAE 2019.

It is hoped that Pakistan can avoid getting under pressure against a better prepared and better quality Palestine side and take something out of the game that can improve team chemistry and allow newer players to gel better for the challenges ahead.

Prediction: Palestine 2-1 Pakistan.

The News adds:

KARACHI: Pakistan football team will be desperately looking to pull off a win when it faces Palestine in a friendly at the Faisal Al-Husseini Stadium in Al-Ram, Palestine, on Friday (today).

The match starts at 6pm PST.

A senior official of Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) told ‘The News’ on Thursday that coach Jose Antonio Nogueira was confident. “I had a chat with the coach and he was confident. He said that the players’ morale was high and that they would give tough time to Palestine,” the official said.

“We have sent our team for exposure which is direly needed at this stage. It’s a blend of youth and experience and hopefully will put in their best,” the official said.

Pakistan have the services of seven foreign-based players for the clash.

The match is part of PFF’s efforts to prepare a strong team for next year’s international assignments. Next year, Pakistan will feature in the South Asian Games, Olympic and World Cup qualifiers, which will need players of different age-groups (under-23 and seniors).

Danish Superliga winger Adnan Mohammad is expected to make his international debut.Palestine have played several matches this year. They are also scheduled to face China on November 20.

The PFF official said that Pakistan team did good practice on Thursday. He added that the team also visited Al-Aqsa Mosque on Thursday for prayer.On Wednesday Pakistan team was received by the Executive Director of the Palestine Football Association (PFA) Firas Abu Hilal.

Squad: Yousaf Ijaz Butt (goalkeeper), Ahsanullah (goalkeeper), Umer Hayat, Arslan Ali, Naveed Ahmad, Zeeshan Rehman, Mehdi Hassan, Yaqoob Ijaz Butt, Adnan Yaqoob, Saddam Hussain, Umair Ali, Hassan Bashir, Muhammad Ali, Zain-ul-Abideen, Mahmood Khan, Naveed Rehman, Mansoor Khan Officials: Jose Antonio Nogueira (head coach), Mohammad Habib (assistant coach), Jose Roberto Portella Carneiro Filho (trainer), Mohammad Adnan (physio).