KARACHI: Pakistan were sent packing from the South Asian Football (Saff) Championship despite their 2-1 win against Bangladesh at the Halchowk Rangasala Stadium in Kathmandu yesterday.
The national team needed to win its last Group A match comprehensively and had hoped the other match went in its favour for it to progress into the semi-finals on better goal difference.
Pakistan did beat Bangladesh but India, who lost to Nepal 2-1, went through owing to a better head-to-head record in the tournament.
Pakistan’s efforts were rendered futile in the last match, where they conceded the first goal in the 30th minute. Ishaq equalised six minutes later and Kaleemullah sealed the win 2-1 with a stoppage-time winner.
Pakistan coach Shehzad Anwar said arch-rivals India did not deserve to qualify for the last-four stage.
“India didn’t deserve to go through,” Anwar told The Express Tribune. “They won the first match against us in the championship just because we scored an own goal. Even today [yesterday] it was just the difference of the one goal we conceded against them that helped them progress in the championship.
“We played well. After our match against India, we were the favourites here. I can say that the team came a long way. They impressed all the technical officials from other teams too, so I’m proud of them despite the result. Our group was a tough one.”
Nepal finished at the top of Group A with seven points, while India finished second with four. They will face Afghanistan and Maldives respectively in the semi-finals.
Essa blames bad selection for early exit
Former captain Essa Khan said that the team’s exit from the championship was a result of bad selection of players.
“Selection is the biggest issue, the coaches didn’t take the players on merit and practiced favouritism,” said Essa.
“The team can’t play well unless the players have talent. This is a result of bad selection and the coaches need to take responsibility.
“We should’ve scored more goals against Bangladesh. This Pakistan team has got a lot of exposure in the last three years. They have played more than 10 international matches but there are no results to show for it. It must mean that the players aren’t talented enough.”
Essa hoped new Bahraini coach Mohamed Shamlan would turn things around and look out for talent based on merit instead of taking decisions only to please the federation’s management.
“I’m hopeful that Shamlan will help because he will not be under any pressure as he is getting paid from the Bahraini government,” said Essa. “He wouldn’t owe anyone here.”
He said that too much dependence on the foreign-based players is also hurting Pakistan football.
“We need to scout and groom our own talent. I’m not against anyone in particular but these foreign-based players aren’t professionals. They just come in a week before the tournament and that is wrong.
“There was no chemistry or combination in the team and the result proves that.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 6th, 2013.