After four losses, Pakistan eye redemption in FIFA qualifier against Saudi Arabia next week [Arab News]

After four losses, Pakistan eye redemption in FIFA qualifier against Saudi Arabia next week [Arab News]

by Muhammad Ibrahim

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s men’s football team coach Stephen Constantine acknowledged on Thursday Saudi Arabia is among some of the best sides in the world but vowed that his team would fight till the last minute as Pakistan seek to redeem themselves after four consecutive defeats in FIFA qualifiers.

Pakistan will face Saudi Arabia at Islamabad’s Jinnah Football Stadium on June 6. Saudi Arabia thumped them 4-0 in the first leg of the World Cup qualifying fixtures when the two Group G sides faced each other last November in Al Ahsa city. Within the next few days, Pakistan suffered a second defeat as Tajikistan cruise to 6-1 win.

The June 6 fixture against Saudi Arabia will be Pakistan’s last home match for the FIFA World Cup qualifying round.

“We are going to fight them from the first minute to the last minute because that’s what we do,” the Pakistani coach told Arab News on the sidelines of one of the practice sessions in Islamabad. “We have to fight. We have to be physical, and we have to try to keep the goals to the minimum.”

Pakistani midfielder Rahis Nabi, one of the diaspora players from Birmingham, United Kingdom, said he was optimistic to win the match against Saudi Arabia, who shocked the world by defeating Argentina 2-1 in their group stage match during the World Cup in Qatar.

“Every game is new now at the beginning,” the 25-year-old player said. “We can win any game, just depends on how we play on the night, and I do believe we can get results.”

Asked about his experience of playing for Pakistan’s national team, Nabi lauded the local players for their hard work and passion for the sport.

“I think we learned many things from each other, but I would say local players learned to be more confident,” he said.

“Maybe they don’t have the confidence that we have by playing abroad,” he continued, adding it was important to tell these players that making mistakes was okay but they had to continue trying. Pakistan will face Tajikistan on June 11 in what will be their final away fixture of round two.

A total of 36 football squads have been split into nine groups with four teams each in the second round of qualifiers.

The winners and runners-up from each group would go through to the third round.

Published in Arab News, 1 June 2024

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