SAFF U15 Championship: Pakistan lose to Bangladesh in final [Express Tribune]

SAFF U15 Championship: Pakistan lose to Bangladesh in final [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Pakistan lost to Bangladesh 4-3 on penalties at the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) U15 Championship for boys in Nepal on Saturday.

The stand out talent had been Mohibullah who scored an equaliser on penalty in full-time to keep Pakistan’s hopes alive in the final. He was one of the two players to score in the penalty shoot-out, Wasif, being the other one. The rest of the penalties were saved by Bangladesh’s substitute goal-keeper.

It could have been an India vs Pakistan final too, but Bangladesh routed the defending champions out in the semi-final on penalty kicks while Pakistan thrashed Nepal at home-ground 4-0 to reach the final.

Pakistan captain Haseeb Ahmed was also named the most valuable player of the tournament.

En-route to the final, Pakistan defeated India 2-1 in their opening Group B match and then outclassed Bhutan 4-0 to progress to the semi-finals.

The outcome brings forth the question whether the talent in good hands.

However, with a good performance at the tournament the players have proven their worth, reaching the final after a training camp of just 20 days before the championship, according to their assistant coach Asghar Anjum.

Nevertheless questions about their future remain unanswered by the Pakistan Football Federation (PF).  While Makhdoom Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat was quick to congratulate, the PFF management was quicker to circulate the President’s message but not too keen on emphasizing the result after the semi-final win.

The team won against the hosts Nepal 4-0, but the story got disturbing as one looked at the score details released by the PFF, they had failed their own players, in this case, Moin Ahmed particularly.

The PFF most likely did not even watch the match; the team management did not bother to correct the mistake either, letting their own player down as the credits for the fourth goal went to Mudassar Nazar instead of the player who actually sealed the win for the country.

Pakistan’s semi-final with Nepal was mainly a spectacle because the hosts seemed out of depth too, the first goal was an own goal in the second half, while the following two were scored by Mohibullah on penalties. Nepal were already playing with 10-players after a red card, while the streaming service made the mistake of calling Pakistan’s fourth goal a penalty by Mudassar Nazar, the PFF never bothered to address the error.

Neither the team’s assistant coaches responded when contacted by The Express Tribune for confirmations.

The PFF press release had stated fourth goal as a penalty, and the rest of the media outlets did run it as such, without corroborating it. The fourth goal was actually a header. This instance alone is an indication of where the future of these young guns lies.

Pakistan youth have thrived at the Saff U16 Championship before too, in 2011 when they won it for the first time, while the national team made their outing at the Saff Suzuki Cup in September and reached the semi-finals for the first time after 2005.

While the talent is speaking for itself, it is a rather bleak performance by the PFF so far.

Published in The Express Tribune, 3 October 2018

The Nation’s Azhar Masood Khan adds:

LAHORE  –  Pakistan lost the SAFF U-15 Championship final against Bangladesh 2-3 in the penalty shootout at ANFA Complex in Kathmandu, Nepal Saturday.

According to information made available here on Saturday, Bangladesh went ahead in the 25th minute from an own goal before Pakistan cancelled the lead from a penalty early in the second half to square the things at 1-1 before the final whistle. The stipulated time ended 1-1 with no extra-time, according to the rules of the tournament.

Bangladesh moved ahead in the 25th minute. Nazmul Ahmed Shakil orchestrated constant threats on the left flank and earned his side a throw-in, followed by a corner taken from where Pakistan defender Haseeb Ahmed Khan headed the ball into his own net. Pakistan equalised nine minutes into the second half after defender Helal Ahmed gave away a penalty. Mohib Ullah made no mistake from the spot. Bangladesh had a decent chance to move ahead again in the 74th minute but this time, Uchchash’s header from a Ebne Ahad Sakil’s corner was saved by the keeper.

Apart from Mehedi’s three saves, Towhidul Islam Hridoy, Mohammad Raja Ansari and Mohammad Rustom Islam converted their chances in the shootout while Mohammad Rajon Hawlader and Mohammad Rabiul Alam fluffed their lines.

From Pakistan, Junaid Ahmad Shah and Adnan Justin missed the first two penalties and later Mohib Ullah and Wasif successfully converted their penalties but unfortunately, Mudassar Nazar missed the last one, thus lost the final 2-3.

Nihat Jaman Uchchash of Bangladesh won the top scorer of the tournament award while besides winning the championship trophy, Bangladesh also earned the fair-play award. It was Bangladesh’s second title in five editions of the competition with the last one being the Saff U-16 Championship three years ago. Pakistan had also won the SAFF U-15 title in 2011.

Talking to The Nation, Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) President Syed Faisal Saleh Hayat appreciated the fighting spirit of the youngsters, saying although the team could not win the title yet they have won millions of hearts.

“It is a big achievement for the country and the young silver medalists as after a three-year turmoil, when the youngsters were provided opportunity under qualified coaching staff, they managed to reach the final of a major tournament, where they went down fighting against better team. Despite losing, the team definitely showed signs of a revival of football in the country as the team performed extraordinarily throughout the tournament.

“Coach Jose Beto Portella has done his job really well and succeeded in making it a spirited unit. Pakistan youth has shown the world that the country is blessed with a lot of promising talent and if provided with best facilities and opportunities, they can excel. Football has a very bright future in Pakistan and the PFF will groom these youngsters for future.”

The PFF chief also extended his heartiest felicitations to the winners Bangladesh. Meanwhile, India defeated hosts Nepal 1-0 to secure victory in the third-place play-off. A first half strike from Thlacheu Vanlalruatfela was enough to see India through.