Bahrain’s head coach is confident that his young side will bounce back from a 1-0 defeat to Palestine in their opening Group D game of the 2024 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U23 Asian Cup Qualifiers at the Muharraq Stadium last Wednesday and put on a winning display against Pakistan in their second game tomorrow.
The Pakistanis, who were hammered 6-0 by Japan in the other Group D game that same day, will themselves be under great pressure to demonstrate more resolve in a game both teams need to win in order to have any chance of being able to progress to the main tournament.
But Bahrain head coach Dario Basic told the GDN that, despite Pakistan’s below-average performance against Japan, his team would not take their opponents lightly.
“Yes, they will be under a lot more pressure than us,” he said.
“But we can’t be fooled by what happened in their game against Japan. Pakistan will be determined now to show that they are a better team than that, that they can play much better than that.
“Japan are a high-class team and any team would struggle against them. So, we have to take that into account and also the fact that the Pakistanis are big, strong boys – like the Palestinians. That’s why it’ll be another tough, extremely physical game for us.”
Basic added that the experience his players gained in the game against Palestine would come in handy against Pakistan.
“People might just focus on the score-line which says we lost 1-0 but, in actual fact, we controlled the game for 90 minutes, so I’m very happy with the way the boys played,” he explained.
“We had possession most of the time, we controlled large passages of play, there was lots of good passing and we kept the Palestinians at bay by not allowing them many shots at goal.
“And we created plenty of chances for ourselves, but, unfortunately, couldn’t manage to convert them. But that’s sport for you and, sometimes, football is not fair. We wanted to score, we wanted to win and, while we would have been happy with a draw, that is not what we were playing for.
“Still, I’m happy that the players gained valuable experience from that first game. For some of the boys, it was their first outing ever in an official international game in Bahrain colours so they will have learnt a lot.”
The team was now focused on collecting the three points that they would gain from a win over Pakistan, Basic added.
“We need those three points to stay in the race for qualification,” he stressed.
“I know that the Pakistanis will be aiming for that too. So, there will be lots of pressure on both teams. Also, our last group match is against Japan, so this is a must-win game for us.”
Japan currently lead the four-team group with three points and will play Palestine – who also have three points but are in second place because of goal-difference – tomorrow. Bahrain and Pakistan both have zero points but the hosts are in third position because of goal difference.
47 teams placed in 11 groups (10 groups of four teams each and one with three teams) are competing for qualification for the main tournament. According to the Qualifiers’ format, 11 group winners and the four best runners-up will qualify for the Asian Cup.