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heroes pakistan progressed into the second round of the 2026 fifa world cup qaulifiers on tuesday photo coutesy pff nc

Pakistan makes history at 2026 Fifa WC qualifiers | The Express Tribune

طوبیٰ Tooba 9 months ago 0 1

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KARACHI:

Pakistan created history on Tuesday as they defeated Cambodia 1-0 at the 2026FIFA World Cup qualifier first round match, Harun Hamid scored the winner for the host at Jinnah Stadium, Islamabad.

The team was playing their World Cup qualifier at home after 12 years and this was also the first international match that Pakistan played at home in eight years, the last one being in 2018, a friendly against Afghanistan.

The England-born Hamid scored the winner in the 68th minute as he slipped the ball smoothly through the Cambodian goalkeeper.

Pakistan pulled off an upset of sorts as they, ranked 19th in the world, defeated Cambodia, ranked 177.

The men in green played a goalless draw in the first leg earlier, and with the 1-0 win in the second leg, they won the tie 1-0 on aggregate.

With this win Pakistan also broke their miserable losing streak of in their last 13 matches out of which eight were played from Novemeber 2022 June this year. Throughout this period they conceded 18 goals and scored only one, which was against Djibouti in a friendly.

The 2026 World Cup will also be the first time 48 teams will bew featured in the main event with a new format.

But on the continental front, Pakistan joined Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Tajikistan in Group G, while second-round matches will begin on November 16.

Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) Normalisation Committee (NC) hired the experienced Englishman Stephen Constantine less than three weeks before the tie, and the former Indian National team coach delivered his promise to the team.

The PFFNC hired the 61-year-old solely for the World Cup qualifier, and he has pulled off a stellar performance from the players, who were underdogs in the entire affair.

Pakistan does not have a professional league that can feed top-notch players for the national side, and the country does not have a single international standard stadium  can host matches. However, Constantine showed his expertise wisely despite the limited options.

The first leg Pakistan played as visitors against Cambodia was brilliantly defensive, while the team looked more spirited in the home tie.

They were careful in the first half, but obsolutely held their own in the second half against a consolidated Cambodian team.

During a press conference with reporters, Constantine had said that the facilities and the resources are limited in Pakistan , but he would do his best with the given pool of players.

“I am so proud of this team. This is such a huge achievement,” exclaimed Muhammad Adil, Pakistan’s former midfielder who has played for FC Dordoi. He had predicted the score to be 1-0 in favor of Pakistan before the match. He was reacting to the win, much like everyone else in the community.

“We played four World Cup qualifier matches, and we have always lost them badly in my time with the national team, but watching Pakistan qualify for the second round is just out of this world for me. I was watching the match, but my expressions and aggression were the same as if I were in the field with them.

“The crowd was amazing.

“But the credit goes to Constantine for playing the match so beautifully, making the right changes, the goalkeeper Yousaf Butt played so well, and Harun really has been crucial for us. There should also be a recognition for the last head coach of the team Shahzad Anwar. He built this team and Constantine has continued with these boys of course every coach chooses his playing 11 and strategy according to his system, so, amazing work. I feel there might be at least six replacements in the squad, but let’s see, the next round is right around the corner.”

Adil hoped that this would be a new beginning for Pakistani football, whether Pakistan progressed to the third round or not, he said that the crowds at the stadium had shown on Tuesday that they would come to support the team.

“I can imagine what the football fans can feel when Saudi Arabia and all the other teams will come to play in Pakistan as well. This is good for the footballers too, that we’ll finally get to play among better teams, even if we lose in the next round there is so much more we are gaining from this win,” said Adil.

Meanwhile, the PFF headquarters in Lahore had been confiscated by the Punjab Board of Revenue on Tuesday as the team was making history in Islamabad.

The lease issue has been plaguing PFF NC since 2021.

 



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