by Alam Zeb Safi
KARACHI: Pakistan senior men’s football team head coach Shehzad Anwar on Sunday said that the country will try to fully utilise the forthcoming three windows of FIFA Days and foreign-based stuff is very much part of the plans to be tested in order to build a solid side for the next year’s crucial assignments.
“Yes, definitely foreign-based stuff is very much under consideration for the FIFA Days matches,” Shehzad told ‘The News’ in an interview on Sunday.
“We are going to tour Nepal next month for a couple of friendlies within FIFA Days and then in March and June we will have such windows of FIFA Days. Besides focusing on home-grown stuff we plan to also test foreign-based footballers in these FIFA Days matches which will help us build a final squad for the next year’s major events including SAFF Cup, World Cup Qualifiers and AFC Under-22 Championship Qualifiers,” Shehzad said.
“But we will not give chance to all mainstream foreign-based players against Nepal but the plan is that we will use some against Nepal and some in the other two windows,” Shehzad was quick to add.
He said as per plans and understanding foreign-based players will come to Pakistan to join the squad before it will fly for Nepal.
Pakistan team, which is currently taking rest and will re-assemble on November 3, will fly out of Lahore for Kathmandu on November 13 to play a couple of matches against Nepal from November 14 to 21.
The venue and actual time of the matches have not yet been decided.
This will be after long three years that Pakistan will be returning to international circuit since it lasted featured in the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers in summer 2019 against Cambodia in Cambodia and Doha. Pakistan had lost both the matches. Since then due to sanctions and other issues Pakistan team remained out of international circuit.
“We are still in the selection process,” Shehzad said.
There are only such three home-based players and one foreign-based player, who are expected to feature in the friendlies against Nepal who were also part of the World Cup Qualifiers against Cambodia three years ago.
These include Ali Khan Niazi, Umar Hayat, Ali Uzair and Denmark-based keeper Yousuf Butt.
Shehzad said that Nepal are a strong side, having played complete World Cup qualifiers, Asian Cup Qualifiers and have been playing consistent football for the last three to four years.
“As far as Pakistan is concerned so you know we trained for six weeks and the players remained inactive for the previous three years. The matches against Nepal, no doubt, will be competitive and we will use them as a build-up process for our brigade for future international events,” said Shehzad, the only Pakistan-based pro-license coach.
“Nepal plays possession-based football and are more skilled. Pakistani players are physically better than Nepalese. Our style of play will also be possession-based and we hope for a good series,” Shehzad said.
“We have a completely young squad and the boys have worked very hard in the camp and we will also smartly utilise the remaining few days in early November before our departure to Nepal,” Shehzad said.
It is also expected that Nepal will also make some reshuffling in its squad by giving chances to some new faces in the series against Pakistan following their persistent international engagement.
Normalisation Committee had invited 90 footballers in the first phase for the trials and 35 more at later stages. Of them around 50 were initially selected and the strength was squeezed upto 36 and some further reduction will be made in the final phase of the training camp which will resume from November 3.
This was the second major step from FIFA-appointed Normalisation Committee to hold the men’s camp following sending women team to SAFF Cup in Nepal.