KATHMANDU: Ali Zafar’s decisive 74th-minute goal powered Pakistan to edge host Nepal in their South Asian Football Federation (SAFF) U19 Championship campaign opener on Thursday.
Pakistan and Nepal went hard at each other in their SAFF U19 Championship fixture and showcased thrilling skills and tenacity before the former prevailed. With a thrilling victory over Nepal, Pakistan ended a 12-year-long victory drought in an international match.
Pakistan’s U19 team last secured a victory on the international stage in 2011, when they defeated India’s U19 team. Midfielder Ali Zafar netted the lone goal in the 74th minute, which turned out to be the difference maker between the two sides, who appeared inseparable in the first half.
Besides Ali Zafar, Pakistan’s goalkeeper Sahil Gul played a pivotal role in his team’s triumph over Nepal, denying several threatening efforts from the home side. The ongoing SAFF U19 Championship 2023 is being held at the Dashrath Stadium here from September 21 to 30. For the unversed, this is the fifth edition of the SAFF U19 Championship, a highly competitive international football tournament for men’s under-19 national sides, organised by the SAFF.
India are the defending champions, having won their second title in 2022 by defeating Bangladesh in the final. Pakistan, on the other hand, fuelled with momentum will now take on Maldives in their next SAFF U19 Championship fixture on September 23.
Pakistan Squad Goalkeepers: Sahil Gul, Mohsin Khan and Muhammad Abdullah
Defenders: Muhammad Sadam, Muhammad Adeel, Asad Nasir, Ans Amin, Khurshid Alam, Muhammad Raheel, Shayan Ali, Kamil Ahmad Khan, Abid Ali, Hannan Naveed and Najeeb Ullah
Midfielders: Ali Zafar, Muhammad Azan and Awais Khan
Forwards: Shahjahan, Muhammad Hassan, Faisal Ahmad, Abdul Wahab,
uhammad Haroon Zafar and Muhammad Adeel Younas
Team Officials: Shadab Ifthikhar (Head Coach), Mohsan Ul Hussnain (Assistant oach),
Khurram Shahzad (Goal Keeper Coach), Aamna (Media), Muhammad Abdullah and
Muhammad Samama (Physio) and Zohair Gondal (Team Manager).