KARACHI: Pakistan finalised their national squad for their upcoming AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers on Friday with the team set to depart for Dubai for a preparatory tour on Saturday.
The team will be in Dubai till March 15 where they also play a practice match against the UAE reserve side on March 11.
There were no surprises in the team which will leave for Kyrgyzstan for the qualifiers from Dubai with only star defender, Zesh Rehman, and left-back Shabir Ali excluded from the original list of probables announced by Pakistan’s Serbian coach Zavisa Milosavljevic after the duo were refused permission by their respective clubs.
The onus will now be on experienced midfielder Adnan Farooq Ahmed to pull the strings for the team.
The England-based midfielder hasn’t had the best of time over the least few years and although he impressed for Droylsden in Conference North since making a move last month, his side have been on a dreadful run since as the slide towards relegation.
It hasn’t been a good last couple of years for the Manchester United academy product.After a career that saw him play in Hungary and Iran as well, Adnan’s promising club career has stalled.
The 28-year-old started his career with Huddersfield Town before transferring to Tranmere Rovers in 2007. He couldn’t force himself into the first team at Tranmere and two years later, went to Budapest.
A year at Ferencvaros was followed by another season at Iranian side Aboomoslem. But by 2011, Adnan was back in England and two seasons later, after spells at Bradford Park Avenue and Nelson FC, finds himself in a relegation dog-fight with Droylsden.
All that could change, however, if he inspires Pakistan to the Challenge Cup finals next year. And he might as well have another cosmopolitan move on the cards.
Placed in Group ‘B’, Pakistan face Tajikistan in the opener at the Spartak Stadium in Bishkek on March 17 before squaring off against the hosts on March 19 and ending their campaign against Macau two days later.
The group winners advance to the finals while the two best second-placed teams from each of the five groups earn a chance at the finals to be held in the Maldives.
The Maldives have already qualified as hosts while Groups ‘A’, ‘C’ and ‘D’ have already been played. Myanmar, Afghanistan and India have already booked a berth at the event.
With India and Bangladesh finishing on six points each as runners-up in Groups ‘A’ and ‘D’ respectively, Pakistan’s minimum target at the qualifiers would be to finish above six points to have any chance of qualifying to the finals if they end as runners-up.
Pakistan’s Denmark-based quartet of Hassan Bashir, Mohammad Ali, Yousuf Butt and Yaqoob Butt would be looking to carry their fine form to the qualifiers after having prominently featured in their recent friendly tours to Nepal and the Maldives.Hassan and Yaqoob both scored their debut goals on the tour. Ali, meanwhile, has been touted as Pakistan’s focal point in attack.
“We hope Ali fires in the qualifiers as he’s a very promising striker,” PFF secretary Col Ahmed yar Khan Lodhi told Dawn. “He links up well with Hassan and both form a potent strike-force up front.”
Apart from that the Khan Research Laboratories’ (KRL) duo of Kaleemullah and Mohammad Adil will also be looking to boost their profile by solid performances having lit up the Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) last season in KRL’s romp to the title.
Goalkeepers: Jaffar Khan (captain), Saqib Hanif, Yousuf Ejaz Butt.
Defenders: Samar Ishaq, Kamran Khan, Mohammad Ahmed, Mohammad Hameed, Saddam Hussain, Naveed Ahmed, Yaqoob Ejaz Butt.
Midfielders: Faisal Iqbal, Mohammad Adil, Yasir Afridi, Adnan Ahmed.
Strikers: Kaleemullah, Mohammad Mujahid, Jadeed Khan Pathan, Hassan Bashir, Saeed Ahmed and Mohammad Ali.
Officials: Zavisa Milosavljevic (manager), Shahzad Anwar (assistant coach), Mohammad Aslam Khan (goalkeeper coach) and Kamran Mehdi (physio).