U23 AFC Championship qualifiers: Pakistan to kick off campaign against Jordan

The side is the lowest ranked in its group but officials remain confident.

Our Correspondent May 15, 2015
A file photo of Pakistan football team in action. PHOTO: AFP

KARACHI: Pakistan will kick off their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2016 U23 Championship qualifiers against Jordan at the Al-Qattara Stadium in Al-Ain on Saturday.

Pakistan, the pool’s lowest-ranked team at 173 in the FIFA rankings, take on Jordan, the highest ranked side at 103, in their opening Group B match.

Pakistan were supposed to host the qualifiers with Jordan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan — who earlier this month withdrew their participation from the group — but the venue and schedule were changed due to unrest in Lahore in March. The competition was earlier planned to begin on March 23 at the Punjab stadium.

However, assistant coach Hassan Baloch feels losing their home advantage will not affect the performance of the team and, since all sides will be playing at a neutral venue, there are no favourites.

“Our first match will set the tone for the competition,” Baloch told The Express Tribune. “It’s not easy, but we’ll give our best. All the matches will be in the evening, so the weather will not be a problem for us.”

Pakistan will be led by Karachi-based midfielder Saddam Hussain.

Meanwhile, Pakistan Football Federation secretary Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi said that he is hoping that the team finishes among the top two sides and qualifies for the main event next year. “It’s going to be tough,” said Lodhi. “Other teams are stronger and have more exposure, but we are keeping our fingers crossed.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 16th,  2015.

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