In a historic moment for Pakistan’s men’s football team, they advanced to the second round of World Cup qualifiers after defeating Cambodia 1-0 in Islamabad.
It marked the first time the national team secured a qualifying victory, sparking jubilant celebrations on and off the pitch at Jinnah Sports Stadium in the Pakistani capital.
The first leg in Phnom Penh had ended in a goalless draw, setting the stage for a decisive match on home turf. In the 67th minute, Harun Hamid’s half-volley found the back of the net, securing the long-awaited victory for Pakistan in their first home game since 2015.
Ranked 197th in the world, Pakistan’s football team had endured a challenging period, with their last international win dating back to 2018. Moreover, they had been banned by FIFA for 15 months in April 2021 due to “undue third party interference,” marking their second ban in four years.
The recent appointment of Englishman Stephen Constantine as the team’s coach aimed to reverse their fortunes. Constantine, appointed by the FIFA-led Normalisation Committee overseeing the Pakistan Football Federation, had previously led India’s national team to significant improvements, including a jump from 173rd to 97th in the FIFA rankings and qualification for the 2019 Asian Cup.
Pakistan’s next challenge in the second round will see them face Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan, with matches scheduled to commence in November.
This victory coincided with the return of international football to Pakistan, a nation traditionally known for its cricket fervor, after an eight-year hiatus from hosting international matches.
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