Early start to WCup qualifying for weaker Asian soccer sides

Pakistan to face Mongolia to qualify for FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022 & Asian Cup 2023 (Photo Courtesy: AFP)
Updated 07 June 2019

Early start to WCup qualifying for weaker Asian soccer sides

  • 12 weakest teams in Asia took an early start this weak to qualify for the big games
  • Pakistan is currently ranked 200th in the FIFA World Rankings

Phenom Penh: Asian soccer lesser-lights such as Mongolia and Pakistan are just 90 minutes away from a rare taste of the big time that could even include a match against the continent’s most famous player, Son Heung-min.
Less than 12 months after the 2018 World Cup final, the 12 weakest teams in Asia this week took the first step along the road to the 2022 tournament to be held in Qatar. The six that emerge as winners after next Tuesday’s second legs will progress to the group stage and potential match-ups with powerhouses such as Son’s South Korea, Japan and Australia.
The prospect of Son, Asia’s biggest name who last week appeared in the UEFA Champions League final with Tottenham Hotspur (a 2-0 loss to Liverpool), taking the field against Pakistan appeals very much to captain Zesh Rehman.
The British-born defender has past experience of facing the best attackers in the league during a spell in the English Premier League with Fulham, but a 2-0 loss to Cambodia on Thursday in Phnom Penh means that there is much to do in the return game for Pakistan.
“It would be huge for the whole country and it would be a significant achievement considering the lack of international exposure in recent years,” Rehman told The Associated Press.
Just to get the sport in the headlines for the right reasons would be a step forward in a country with a soccer scene that has been burdened by politics, corruption and incompetence for years.
So bad has it become that Pakistan, a country with a population of around 200 million, is ranked 200th in the world by FIFA, below teams such as Bhutan, Mongolia and Brunei.
“The ranking is too low,” Rehman admitted. “I believe however with this coaching staff, regular games and a mixture of local and foreign-based players that the ranking will no doubt improve.”
To take on South Korea and Son would be exciting but more important is the prospect of eight guaranteed group games in the next stage.
Pakistan needs as much soccer as possible. With qualification for the 2022 World Cup being combined with qualification for the 2023 Asian Cup, early elimination can be a major blow for teams and lead to long periods without competitive action.
“We have not has so many games In the last few years due to some political factors that are beyond the players control, so we just focus on the games as and when they are scheduled for us to play,” said Rehman.
Mongolia is also looking to give soccer a boost in a country where it is far from being the No. 1 sport, lagging behind volleyball, basketball, archery, wrestling and others. Preserving its 2-0 advantage from the first leg in Brunei is vital.
“The biggest challenge is to make football really popular,” Hatem Souissi, the technical director of the Mongolian federation, told the Asian Football Confederation. “If we can qualify for the next round then we will try to bring top teams so that the crowd can come and see them.
“We need to make the sport popular and bring big names. And we will find that hard if we don’t qualify for the next round.”


Pakistan army denies reports of joint border patrols with Iran

Updated 09 December 2019

Pakistan army denies reports of joint border patrols with Iran

  • Patrolling operations on respective sides are conducted by respective forces, military spokesman says
  • Last month, army chief visited Tehran for security talks

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan army spokesperson on Monday rejected media reports suggesting that Pakistani and Iranian security forces conducted joint border patrolling.
“News published by Dawn today ('Pak-Iran Forces jointly conduct border patrolling') is factually incorrect,” Director-General Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), Maj. Gen. Asif Ghafoor, said in a tweet.
He added that “there is no joint patrolling anywhere on Pakistani borders” as “patrolling operations if required are always on respective sides by respective forces through coordination.”

The English-language daily reported earlier on the day that Pakistan and Iran had conducted another joint patrol on the border near Taftan town in Chagai district, Balochistan.
Soon after Ghafoor's comment, Dawn's editor Zaffar Abbas clarified that “the confusion was caused by the official news agency APP, as the picture caption said ‘joint patrolling.’ Radio Pak also tweeted the same. But we will be carrying out correction in light of your statement.”

Border security has long been a major cause of distrust in Pakistan-Iran relations. 
In April, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that the two countries would form a joint quick-reaction force to combat militant activity on their shared border, following a deadly attack on Pakistani security personnel on the coastal highway in southwestern Balochistan, where 14 soldiers lost their lives.
On Nov. 18, Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa visited Tehran for security talks with Iran's political leadership and military leadership.
In May this year, Pakistan began the fencing of certain areas along the 950-kilometer border it shares with Iran.