KARACHI: Just days before going into the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers first round against Cambodia, Pakistan football team had good practice when they went 1-2 down while fighting against Bahrain Under-23 team in a friendly game at the National Stadium Bahrain on Tuesday night.
Playing without their Denmark-based players who had their clubs commitment, Pakistan gave tough fight to Bahrain’s second-best bunch in a hotly-contested battle. Pakistan’s coach Jose Antonio Nogueira was happy with the way the boys played. “It had positives for us. Mostly young boys were fielded and they played well,” Nogueira told ‘The News’ on Wednesday.
“Pakistan were playing their first game since last December. We used two goalkeepers, Ahsanullah and Muzammil, and I am happy both played well,” Nogueira said.
Danish gloveman Yousuf Butt, who will be the frontline keeper in the qualifiers, was not part of the team because of his club commitment. The coach says that his team is in a position to put in its best against Cambodia. “With the last few days of training I am hopeful that we are going to do better against Cambodia,” Nogueira said.
All Denmark-based players will re-join the squad before it leaves for Cambodia.
Pakistan will face Cambodia in the first leg at the latter’s backyard on June 6.
Pakistan will host its home leg at Doha on June 11.
The lowest-ranked 12 teams of Asia have been placed in the qualifiers first round and the six winners will join the 34 best Asian sides in the second round to be held in September.
England-born Samir Nabi received a minor injury during the match. In the fast-paced outing under floodlights Ahmed Fahim provided Pakistan the lead in the sixth minute when he was fed superbly by England-born young Guiseley AFC winger Tabish Hussain.
Bahrain leveled it just before half time. And after 50 minutes Bahrain hit the winner. Pakistan got a good chance to level the score but the referee disallowed a fine attempt from the visitors when the ball, after deflecting off the post, crossed the goal-line before the hosts’ defender cleared it.
Former Fulham defender Zeeshan Rehman will join Pakistan squad in Manama on Thursday (today). Zesh, also a former Pakistan captain, was playing for his club Southern in the Hong Kong FA Cup. Zesh’s club lost to Kitchee 2-0 in the final on May 25.
Pakistan are scheduled to fly out of Bahrain for Cambodia on June 3. After playing the first leg Pakistan will come down to Doha and will get four days to practise before their home leg. The qualifiers are going to be held at a time when Pakistan’s football is in deep turmoil.
Besides Bahrain’s camp, which is being supervised by FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), Ashfaq-led PFF has held a parallel camp in Islamabad engaging some key players who will miss such a big opportunity of playing in the World Cup qualifiers.
A FIFA-AFC joint mission interviewed both the groups during its two-day stay at Lahore during the last two days in order to find the way forward for resolving the long-standing dispute. Because of the issue Pakistan missed the 2020 Olympics Qualifiers in Uzbekistan in March.