KARACHI: Pakistan team’s Serbian football coach Zavisa Milosavljevic says that even though he was satisfied with the team’s progress during their recently concluded practice tour of Thailand, the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) is still in the process of building a strong team for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Under-22 Championship Qualifiers that are to take place in June.
“I am happy with the way my boys played in Thailand against the top clubs of their premier league. We won two of the four matches we played there and are making good progress,” said the Serbian coach while speaking to Dawn on Friday.
The team had just returned from a training tour of Thailand on Thursday night where they lost their first match 0-3 to Army United Football Club of Thailand followed by a 1-0 win against Bangkok Glass, a 4-1 triumph against Osapspa Football Club and a 1-2 loss against Thailand’s Division-II League top team Ayutthaya. “Our boys implemented all techniques while keeping ball possession with them most of the times. They played offensive football throughout,” said the coach.
“The first match that we lost against Army United FC was due to the absence of four of our players namely, Kaleemullah, Mohammad bin Younis, Junaid Qadir and Faisal Iqbal who missed out because they did not have their Thai visas then. Army United FC is the top premier league team in Thailand,” he provided.
“The next two matches, as you know, we won. Bangkok Glass and Osapspa FC are the second and third top clubs in Thailand and we beat them both. We could have also defeated Ayutthaya as we were clearly the better of the two teams in the last match but we paid the price for missing five to six good opportunities,” Milosavljevic explained.
“What can one do? Our boys are still raw, they make mistakes. Mistakes are part of the game. Still we will try to overcome our shortcomings before our next assignment,” he hoped.
Upon their return, the players have immediately become busy in the National U-22 Football Championship in Bahawalpur featuring 12 teams including provincial, departmental and club outfits.
The focus of the national championship is to select/prepare the national U-22 team for AFC U-22 qualifiers scheduled in June but Zavisa intends to keep his options open until the very end.
“Everybody, foreign players included, who measures up to national team standards will be given a chance,” he stated.
“I want to put together the best talent available to me.”
Pakistan U-22 side’s next foreign assignment is to play in Palestine against Tunisia, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and Iraq besides the hosts Palestine in mid may. “The fixtures or draws have not been taken out as yet but it will be our youth team against the full strength senior teams from the other countries in the competition. Preparatory camp for the Palestine trip begins on May 7, a day after the conclusion of the National U-22 Football Championship and we plan to leave for Palestine on May 13,” the coach said.
“The Thailand tour was good for the boys as playing against any foreign side, be it a country or a club, gives you the much-needed exposure which is always extremely beneficial,” he said.
“I hope to provide as much foreign exposure to our players as possible and am glad that the PFF agrees with me on this and is doing all that it can to make it possible,” he concluded.
The main event all the preparation is going on for, the AFC Under-22 Championship Qualifiers, will see the Pakistan U-22 football team playing their Group ‘B’ matches at the King Fahd International Stadium and Prince Faisal bin Fahd Stadium in Saudi Arabia from June 23 to July 3.
The group comprises Palestine, Sri Lanka, Syria and Kyrgyzstan besides Pakistan and hosts Saudi Arabia. Two teams from the group will move into the tournament proper to be held in 2013. Pakistan will play their first match against Saudi Arabia (June 23), second against Sri Lanka (June25), third against Kyrgyzstan (June 28), fourth against Syria (June 30) and fifth against Palestine (July 3).