Against India, Mohammad Adil showed South Asia what a talent he is. Hassan Bashir did everything but score in Pakistan’s 1-0 defeat to their arch-rivals.
Having been Pakistan’s standout players in their Group ‘A’ opener against India on Sunday, the onus would be on the attacking duo to spearhead the national team in their must-win clash against hosts Nepal on Tuesday.
At the Dasharath Rangala Stadium in Kathmandu on Sunday, Adil was a constant menace on the right wing.
He tore Indian left-back Nallappan Mohanraj to shreds, getting past him with ease and causing India all kinds of trouble.
When he drifted in, he linked up brilliantly with Hassan who proved too hot to handle for the Indian back-line.
Hassan was efficient as a target-man upfront as he held the attack together, ran the channels and got past opponents at will.
However, the pair failed to conjure up a goal which ultimately led to Pakistan’s demise and left them needing victory against Nepal to keep their semi-final hopes alive.
After the opening round of games, Nepal and India top Group ‘A’ with three points each with Pakistan and Bangladesh yet to open their account.
Nepal were 2-0 winners over Bangladesh in the tournament’s opening game on Saturday. Adil’s performance against India earned him rave reviews by India’s Dutch coach Wim Koevermans.
“Adil was very quick and from that side Pakistan created many opportunities,” said Koevermans, who was a member of Netherland’s Euro 1988 winning team, after the match.
While the focus was on Pakistan’s England-based midfielder Adnan Ahmed to inspire the team in his role of a trequaritista, it was in effect Adil who stole the show as the playmaker.
Ahead of the SAFF Championships, Adil spoke about how much it means to him to perform at the international level and earn glory for Pakistan.
“You want to try yourself at the highest level,” he said.
“You can then see where you stand and where you need to improve.
“My aim is to win a trophy with Pakistan at an international level as I’ve already won everything there is at club level in Pakistan,” added Adil who has been a key member of Khan Research Laboratories’ team which has clinched back-to-back Pakistan Premier Football League (PPFL) titles in the last two seasons.
Things are totally different for Hassan, who is a member of Pakistan’s five-strong foreign-based contingent at the SAFF Championship.
Hassan plies his trade for Nordvest in Denmark’s second division. For him, winning a trophy has an entirely different meaning.
“It is a glorious opportunity for me to represent Pakistan,” he said after scoring his first international goal.
“It’s a great feeling to wear the green shirt and I hope that I achieve great things and win big trophies with the national team.”
That first goal incidentally came against Nepal in February.
Pakistan were then playing a two-game friendly series against Nepal, winning both games 1-0 with Hassan scoring the winner in the first and Mohammad Mujahid in the second.
Shahzad Anwar was then assistant to Pakistan’s Serbian head coach Zavisa Milosavljevic. Now he’s the man in-charge of the national team at the SAFF Championships after Milosavljevic was fired a few days ahead of the tournament.
Milosavljevic’s replacement, Bahraini Mohammad Al Shamlan is in Nepal as a consultant.
And after the narrow defeat to India, Shahzad is confident Pakistan can overcome Nepal.
“I hope my boys play like this against Nepal,” he said at the post-match press conference.
“We need to build on this momentum.
“Nepal are a good team and they played well against Bangladesh. But we’re ready because even though we lost, the morale of the team is high.”
February’s friendly series was the first assignment for Nepal’s Poland-born American coach Jack Stefanowski.
And after seven months at the helm, he believes, he has a squad good enough to win the SAFF Championship.
“I had set a target when I landed in Kathmandu seven months earlier and I think the time is ripe to deliver,” he said ahead of the eight-nation event.
“We’re capable of defeating any team in the event.”