SAFF Cup: Pakistan banks on European exposure against India

While Pakistan is fielding a full-strength side in the seven-nation tournament, India has brought over an inexperienced U-23 side.

Pakistan skipper Saddam Hussain (C) plays for Gencler Birligi in Cyprus.   -  AFP

Although the Pakistan coach José Antonio Nogueira conceded that India has the better team in the lead up to the the semifinal clash of the SAFF Cup, Stephen Constantine's boys cannot afford to take its opposition lightly. 

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Pakistan, which returned to international football after a three-year absence at the 2018 Asian Games, is fielding a full-strength side in the seven-nation tournament.

Keeping in mind the preparation for the 2019 Asian Cup, Stephen Constantine brought a U-23 side to Bangladesh. Chennaiyin FC's Anirudh Thapa was the senior-most Indian player in terms of international experience with seven caps which included nine uncapped players. The 20-member squad come from the Indian Super League and the I-League.

On the other hand, José Antonio Nogueira had a relatively experienced pool of players — many of whom have domestic and European football exposure — to choose from. Skipper Saddam Hussain is a midfield player for Cyprus' top division club Gençler Birliği SK.

Zesh Rehman plays for Southern in the Hong Kong Premier League and was part of the side which lost in the 2005 SAFF Cup semifinal.

Hassan Bashir, who has two goals in the group stages, plays as a forward for Denmark's third tier club BK Søllerød-Vedbæk. Bashir is one of the four Pakistani players to ply their trade in Danish third tier clubs and among the nine to play overseas.

Strike partner Muhammed Ali and goalkeeper Yousuf Bhutt are first-team players for Greve Fodbold while Adnan Mohammad of Danish decent plays for Lyngby Boldklub.

The 201st ranked side in the world also has representatives in the lower leagues of Canada, Australia and Maldives.

Despite being the defending champion and the tournament favourite the Indian boys might have its task cut out in a match up against an experienced Pakistan.