Pakistan lose Saff championship semi-final against India

Men in Green could score only once after opposition’s three goals


Natasha Raheel September 13, 2018
PHOTO COURTESY: TWITTER/ SAFF CHAMPIONSHIP

KARACHI: Fairy tales aren't true but grit is and so was the story of the Pakistan national team, more specifically the of the footballers who were fighting against the odds, only falling a step behind to make history at the South Asian Football Federation (Saff) Championship, now known as the Saff Suzuki Cup 2018, at Bangabandhu National Stadium in Dhaka on Wednesday evening.

They lost to India 3-1 in a match that said more than just the score line.

The first half was much of a balancing act as Pakistan would gain their confidence towards the end of it, keeping the ball on the Indian side, having an intense goalless end despite missing chances through set pieces.

Saff championship: Pakistan face India in semis, but questions hang over future


However, India, who were fielding their U23 team dominated the second half in more style as they drew first blood in the 48th minute with Manvir Singh scoring the goal and later doubling it in the 69th minute of the match. India maintained their lead and had another moment of bliss with a goal from Sumeet Passi in the 84th minute pushing Pakistan further in the corner on a muddy pitch.

Pakistan were also reduced to 10 men as Mohsin Ali was shown the red card.

But Pakistan replied with Hassan Bashir, the second highest goal-scorer for the country now having scored seven international goals in the green shirt.

He would put the ball in the net in the 88th minute, as a saving grace, lessening the margin.

This was the first time in 13 ears that Pakistan qualified for Saff semi-finals and had they won it, it would have been a first final for the country.

Pakistan's best finish at Saff had been the third place in 1997.

But this time, it was all about the players who were playing their first tournament in three years, as the Pakistan football Federation (PFF) had failed to keep up the sport due to their politics in the aim to keep Faisal Saleh Hayat as the President for the fourth term.

The players did not get any training tours before the tournament, while within the team, the PFF managed to carry on with their tradition of politicising the matters, as they left out former captain Kaleemullah stating he was unfit. Instead they fielded players like Abdullah Qazy, who is coming in from an amateur league from the US.

The PFF took out Kaleemullah sating that he was unfit, and mocked him for playing at a club in Turkey, but had no problem adding Qazy.

Coach Nogueira had also used Qazy for the better part of the semi-final, not taking Muhammad Adil or Saadullah on the field, when the team was already struggling in the midfield.

Pakistan were also the lowest ranked team in the competition, at 201 in FIFA rankings, and their progress from the group stage was also unexpected.

They defeated Nepal 2-1 in the first match and then lost to hosts Bangladesh 1-0, only to kick them out over goal-difference, to proceed in the semi-finals with a 3-0 win against Bhutan 0.

On the other hand, India made their way to the final comfortably. They will play the Maldives in the final who defeated Nepal 3-0 in the first semi-final of the tournament.

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