by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: The bench strength is expected to be used as Pakistan football team lock horns with Djibouti in their last game of the four-nation football event at Stade de Cote d’Or, Saint Pierre, in Mauritius, on Saturday (today).
Pakistan are nowhere in the event as they have already lost their initial two games against hosts Mauritius and Kenya 3-0 and 1-0, respectively. However, a win will boost the morale of the brigade ahead of the SAFF Cup which will be held in Bengaluru, India, from June 21 to July 4.
Pakistan team was expected to get visas for India on Friday as an official of the team had reached the Indian embassy in Mauritius to collect the passports when this report was filed.
Pakistan could have got visas a few days ago but due to NOC issue it could not be done. The government issued NOC on Thursday which made the things easier for the team management to get the visas.
Pakistan will leave for India on June 18 at 11:30 am Mauritius time and will be able to get a couple of days training opportunities before their first game against India on June 21. Kuwait and Nepal are the other teams in Pakistan’s group in the SAFF Cup, an event which Pakistan have never won.
Djibouti, ranked 194th, have shown a lot of resolve in the four-nation event and it will be a tough match between the African side and Pakistan team which is playing for the first time against African nations.
Pakistan head coach Shehzad Anwar said that there are chances that bench strength will be utilised. “We are ready but we will see the situation and we may also give chance to our bench as we are to travel to India for SAFF Cup which is the most important event for us,” Shehzad told ‘The News’ from Mauritius.
“Djibouti have almost won the event with two back-to-back wins and will be relaxed,” Shehzad said. However, he said that Djibouti play physical game and they will look to play against them with a certain strategy as they are also to keep their players away from injuries ahead of the most vital assignment in India.
After losing badly to Mauritius in their opener Pakistan made amends with a solid performance against Kenya in their second show which they narrowly lost 1-0. The team showed a compact game and that has boosted the morale of the squad. “Definitely when you play against such a fine team so closely then it will definitely boost your morale and we are happy with that,” said Shehzad, an AFC Pro License coach.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Saqib Hanif, Salman-ul-Haq, Yousaf Ijaz Butt; Defenders: Muhammad Umar Hayat, Ali Khan Niazi, Muhammad Sufyan, Mamoon Moosa Khan, Syed Abdullah Shah, Haseeb Ahmed Khan, Sardar Wali, Easah Suliman, Abdullah Iqbal; Midfielders: Alamgir Ali Khan Ghazi, Ali Uzair Mahmood, Moin Ahmed, Shayak Dost, Muhammad Waleed Khan, Rahis Nabi, Harun Hamid, Muhammad Adnan Yaqoob; Forwards: Abdul Samad Shahzad, Otis Jan Mohammad Khan, Hassan Naweed Bashir, M Waheed.