by Alam Zeb Safi
LAHORE: Former Pakistan football team head coach Zavisa Milosavljevic of Serbia on Saturday revealed that there were various factors which led to Pakistan’s pathetic performance in the first two games of the second round of the 2026 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers against Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan recently.
“If we talk about the two previous matches against Saudi Arabia and Tajikistan there are several factors that will give us the answer,” Zavisa told ‘The News’ in an exclusive chat from Serbia.
“The basic group of players should be made up of local players but that requires a serious system of competition in Pakistan. It is the Premier League and second tier league from where the players will be selected who will come from the continuous competition system,” Zavisa pointed out.
“An organized system is needed in working with the young players and that requires a large group of educated coaches. Young players will be the basis for creating the national team in future. The additional selection of the national team will be made with players who play in foreign clubs but whose quality must be better than the local players,” said Zavisa, who is working these days with Serbia’s under-23 team.
“Hiring a national team coach is the last step. A coach, who will prepare the team at a high tactical level and prepare them physically. It is also necessary to hire the Technical Director of the national team who will unite everything in the professional PFF football work system,” Zavisa said.
It is pertinent to mention here that Pakistan went down to Saudi Arabia 4-0 at Al-Ahsa on November 16 in their first game of the second round before going 6-1 down to Tajikistan in their second show at the Jinnah Stadium Islamabad on November 21.
“The previous two games showed that exactly these factors were missing which needed to have in order to achieve a good result. Hiring head coach was late. He did not get enough time to put everything in place,” Zavisa said.
“If Pakistan national football team wants to be compared with Saudi Arabia or Tajikistan they should also set up the same working system,” Zavisa said. Zavisa appreciated Pakistan’s first ever qualification for the second round of the World Cup Qualifiers.
“By placing themselves in the group stage of the qualification is a huge historical success for Pakistan,” he said. Pakistan downed Cambodia in Islamabad 1-0 in their home leg after holding their opponents to a goalless draw in their away leg to qualify for the second round of the vital event. Pakistan had made its debut in the qualifiers way back in the 1990 World Cup Qualifiers.
Zavisa also called for inclusion of former Pakistan captain Saddam Hussain in the team if he meets the demands set by the head coach. “The selection of players for national team depends on their current quality and whether they can meet the demands set by the coach. If Saddam Hussain meets the level of the national team he should certainly be invited to play. He is a very experienced player and can certainly help national team. I am sure he can do it,” he said.
Saddam is currently playing for Salalah Sport Club in Oman which plays in a second tier league. Jordan is the other team in Pakistan’s group. The second phase will be conducted in March while the final phase will be held in June.
The top two teams from the group will make it to the third round while the bottom two sides will feature in the 2027 Asian Cup Qualifiers. These four teams are being engaged to play against each other on home and away basis.