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in first football friendly Pakistan defeat Nepal

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KARACHI: The Pakistan football team started off their first international assignment of the year on a high note as they defeated Nepal 1-0 in their opening match of the tour in Kahtmandu yesterday.

The solitary goal against Nepal was scored by Danish-Pakistani striker Hassan Bashir in the last minute of the match to bring victory to the Pakistan side.

Pakistan will now face their hosts in the next match on February 9 and then head to Maldives on February 12, where assistant coach Shahzad Anwar, believes the team will show further improvements as Denmark-based forward Muhammad Ali will be joining the squad.

According to Anwar, the first friendly against Nepal has set the tone for Pakistan and hopefully, the overall exposure gained from the back-to-back tours will give them a kick start ahead of their campaign at the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers which will begin next month in Kazakhstan.

The coach said that although the weather conditions were against the team as they played the match in the rain, they managed to perform well against Nepal who are placed 170 in the Fifa rankings compared to Pakistan who are in 189th position.

“Nepal is a very tough side but I’m glad we hit off well despite the rain during the match,” Anwar told The Express Tribune.

“We weren’t really expecting a win when the match started, but I’m glad that the defenders took control of the match in the first-half, and the strikers were playing for the team instead of their individual selves.

“The aim for us right now is to get the team to score, because that is our weak area.”

Meanwhile, Anwar also said that in order to improve, they had to form a stronger team and build an understanding between the five foreign-based players and the local strikers in the team. Coach Zavisa Milosavljevic has asked Bashir, Yaqoob Butt, Yousuf Butt, Shabbir Khan and Muhammad Ali to stay with the team till the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers in March.

“We have asked the foreign-based players to spend at least a month playing with the local players in the team.

“Kaleemullah and Muhammad Adil haven’t scored much in international matches as they are more comfortable playing in the Pakistan Premier Football league and perform better there.

“However, the players need to work on their temperament and confidence to score in the international matches,” said Anwar.

Anwar also said that the win in the practice tour will also help the team improve their Fifa rankings.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 7th, 2013.