KARACHI: Pakistan made their way to the South Asian Football championship (Saff Suzuki Cup) semi-finals as they thrashed Bhutan 3-0 at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Saturday.
This is the first time Pakistan have made it to the semi-finals of the championship since 2005, when it took place in Karachi, while the country’s best performance at regional level has been third place – in 1997.
Pakistan needed at least three goals to survive in the tournament, which they got just in time.
“Im just so happy, for New Pakistan, for New Pakistani football, just so happy,” vice-captain Hassan Bashir said in his post-match reaction.
Hangu-based midfielder Muhammad Riaz scored the first goal of the match in the 20th minute, while Bashir doubled it in, nine minutes later while substitute Faheem Ahmed put the ball in the net in the first minute of the five-minute extra-time.
Pakistan have been placed in Group A with hosts Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.
It’s all a result of the players’ efforts as Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) failed to arrange any practice tour for the team before the championship.
This was Pakistan’s first event in three years for the national side after 2015 FIFA World Cup qualifiers against Yemen. However, the players have proved their dedication with this performance.
In contrast, the PFF wasted more than three years of opportunities due to in-fighting among officials and President Faisal Saleh Hayat’s quest to keep his presidency intact.
Pakistan coach, Brazil’s Jose Antonio Nogueira has taken charge this year and took the U23 team to Asian Games. Nogueoira gets his salary from Bahrain Football Association.
Meanwhile, former captain Kaleemullah, who was shown the door by the PFF claiming that he was unfit, has been signed by a Turkish club raising questions over PFF’s handling of the players. Adnan Mohammad could not join the team because of the visa issues.