by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan football team held its second training session in Doha on Sunday to prepare for the do-or-die second-leg battle of the 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup joint qualifiers first round against Cambodia on Tuesday (tomorrow).
After reaching Doha late Friday, Pakistan held a training session at the Al-Sailiya Stadium on Saturday and Sunday. And on Monday (today), Jose Antonio Nogueira’s charges will have their final training session at the match venue, Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium, in the Qatar’s capital.
After meeting in the first leg in Cambodia on June 6, both teams flew to Doha via same flight. Pakistan are hosting the Doha leg. “Yes, training sessions have been good so far,” a Pakistan team official told ‘The News’ from Doha on Sunday.
With the temperature exceeding 40 degree Celsius in Qatar, which will be hosting the 2022 FIFA World Cup, both Pakistan and Cambodia trained under floodlights. The Tuesday match will also be held under floodlights, starting at 7pm local time.
After losing the first leg 0-2 in Cambodia, securing a 3-0 win for Pakistan in the second leg seems to be a huge target. But an official said that they could beat Cambodia with the desired margin. “Yes, we have the capability to beat them and qualify for the second round,” the official said.
Having played the first leg in Cambodia on an artificial turf under heavy downpour and in front of a huge crowd supporting the local side, Doha is expected to bring in a joy for the Green-shirts as the conditions and the grassy pitch might benefit them to thump Cambodia.
“Yes, in Cambodia we faced trouble from every side. Cambodia have beaten some major teams at their own backyard and are a hard team to beat at home. But here in Doha we can pull off a big win,” the official said.
He dispelled the impression that all foreign-based players were being utilised. “If you see we missed in Cambodia match only three players, Saddam Hussain, Umair and Naved, from the squad which had played against Palestine in the FIFA friendly last year in Al-Ram. The rest of the squad was the same,” the official said.
He added that they would go all out in the second leg. Cambodia might opt for defensive display but could also try for striking the goals through counter-attacks. “We will try to bring them under pressure,” he said.
When asked why they had played front-runner Mohammad Riaz as left full-back in the first leg, the official said Naveed had been their left fullback during their last few assignments and as he was not there, they opted to play Riaz at that position because he had the experience of playing as a left-wing front-runner.
Asia’s lowest 12 nations are engaged in the first round. The the six winners will join Asia’s leading 34 nations in the second round to be held in September.
Meanwhile, this correspondent learnt that FIFA-recognised Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) had got visas of Qatar for all those eight home-based players who were not allowed by the Ashfaq-led PFF to join the team. Their passports are in possession of the team officials working under the Ashfaq-led PFF, a source said. This correspondent saw copies of Qatar visas issued to three Pakistani players.
In the other matches of the first leg on June 6, Bhutan beat Guam 1-0, Malaysia whipped Timor-Leste 7-1, Bangladesh beat Laos 1-0, Macau defeated Sri Lanka 1-0 and Mongolia overpowered Brunei 2-0.