LAHORE - Pakistan football team head coach Brazilian Jose Antonio Nogueira believes that the efforts on part of players and the federation can help Pakistan improve its international ranking.

Talking to The Nation, Nogueira said: “After three years turmoil, the national football team took part in a mega event like Asian Games, where Pakistan team’s performance against Nepal was really commendable. In Asian Games, our group was a difficult having Japan, Vietnam and Nepal and all had higher ranking than us. Although we lost against Japan and Vietnam but played well against them while won against Nepal, who are 40 places higher in world ranking.

“The victory against Nepal shows the commitment of players and Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) towards the game and its betterment. The players are working hard and going through tough fitness tests and training, which will obviously help do well in the SAFF Championship,” he added.

The head coach said that the SAFF Championship is the first tournament of senior national team after more than three years’ gap. “We are trying to comeback in the international circuit with a solid approach and making good impression, which will help us do well in the upcoming events. The boys are also keen to excel in the SAFF Championship.”

He said that the players have recovered the physical standard but still need to do a lot. “Physical fitness is the major area, where every player has to focus on. Those, who are not physically fit, will not be considered in the national team, so every player has to fully focus on his fitness, so that he may give out his best during any event. We are working hard to improve players’ tactical insight and hope they will be made physically and mentally strong.”

Nogueira said that he is grateful to PFF President Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, who has full faith in him and has given him free hand to choose the best national side. “I am free to train the national teams in my own style, while full authority in the selection also helps me a lot to pick the best lot to represent the country at international events.

“Another factor which has become a constant source of inspiration for me and the national team players is all-out support by the PFF chief. It is not only helping us to fully focus on the team development but will also boost our moral before leaving for SAFF Championship. The way we are welcomed on our return from Asian Games has certainly raised the confidence level of the boys, who definitely want to do more,” he said.

Seconding the appeal of PFF president to the government for development of infrastructure, he said there is a dire need to build international-standard football stadiums and grounds, as it will help not only host international football events in Pakistan, but also provide our players opportunities to play and train in the state-of-the-art football stadiums.

The Brazilian said that basically the local, provincial and regional associations produce the players and in fact, the national association’s job is to polish the players and build national teams, provide standard coaches, exposure and facilities to the national teams. “I have seen that the PFF is supporting the subordinate associations to get fully active and come up with better planning and work and provide fresh lots to the PFF, so that they may be groomed well for higher level events.”

“There is a dire need to hold more and more competitive tournaments like National Challenge Cup besides Pakistan Premier Football League. If the federation is supported well by the government and corporate sector, I hope the PFF can make the Pakistan Premier Football League an international-level tournament where top footballers from different countries can be invited, which will make the event more competitive and enthralling,” Nogueira concluded.