Very excited to see the Pakistan MNT back in action after over 3 years tomorrow in Nepal! But its important to be sober in our expectations.
This is a largely new squad. Only a handful have played senior international football. Others have played in past at U16 and U19 levels for Pakistan but without a normal transition into senior international level. Most will be making their international debuts!
Our domestic players have not had a proper official football season for years (some never got the opportunity) due to PFF political crises since 2015 and COVID disruptions of 2020. Many did keep active playing minor/invitational tournaments nationwide, but the standard of football played there does not prepare them well for international football (esp. if they haven’t played at the level for years).
Hence the need for a prolonged national training camp many weeks long for our domestic boys. A proper official club season lasting many months would have meant just 3-5 days max camp needed before an international match during ‘normal’ days. Nothing is ever ‘normal’ in Pak football.
Diaspora players, given they play a proper league season for their clubs, can only be called up during FIFA-approved match days when season temporarily stops. They cannot (should not) be part of prolonged camps as long as they are active for their clubs. FIFA rules regarding international call-ups need to be followed (read them up! If you do not follow FIFA rules, you cannot play international football!). They should have the quality and match fitness to make a key difference on the pitch for the whole team.
Nepal is expected to use their home-advantange and possession-based style to attack. Our boys will have to be on their toes the full 90 min. The senior internationals (Hassan Bashir, Umer Hayat, Yousuf Butt, Saqib Hanif, M. Adnan Yaqoob, Zain ul Abideen Ishaq) will have to be at their best at all times. They will need to lead from the front and encourage the likes of Abdullah Shah, Abdullah Iqbal, Alamgir Ghazi, Muhammad Waheed, Waleed Khan, Abdul Qadeer Khan, Junaid Shah, Sohail Khan etc. to keep calm and stick to whatever tactics have been decided upon.
Defence has to be proactive in stopping attacks. Midfield will have to at least try to maximise possession and deny Nepal from having an easy time on the ball. The attacking line has to create space and chances to pressure Nepal’s goal with everything they got.
But we have to be realistic too. Nepal are clear favourites, so anything other than a defeat will be great for us. The aim is to build a team with more international matches, and quality additions, from now until the Asian qualifiers for 2026 FIFA World Cup / 2027 AFC Asian Cup beginning in Oct 2023.
Step by step, match by match, we can build on whatever result in Nepal and keep pushing to improve and get ready for the crucial FIFA friendly windows and international events in 2023.