In a historic victory, Pakistan’s men’s football team achieved a monumental milestone by advancing to the second round of the World Cup qualifiers with a 1-0 win over Cambodia in Islamabad.
This momentous occasion marked the first time that the national team secured a qualifying game victory, triggering jubilant celebrations both on the pitch and in the stands at Jinnah Sports Stadium in Pakistan’s capital on Tuesday.
The journey to this milestone victory began with a goalless draw in the first leg in Phnom Penh. The match’s decisive moment arrived in the 67th minute when Harun Hamid delivered a spectacular half-volley, clinching victory in Pakistan’s first home game since 2015.
Looking ahead, Pakistan is set to face formidable opponents in the second round, including Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan. The second round of qualifiers is slated to commence in November.
This remarkable achievement comes after a challenging period for the South Asian nation, which is currently ranked 197th in the world. Pakistan had not won an international match since 2018 and faced a FIFA ban in April 2021 lasting 15 months due to “undue third-party interference.” This was their second ban within four years.
Last week, Englishman Stephen Constantine was appointed as the new coach of the team, with the mission to break their 13-match losing streak. The team had not played an international game since June 2019, and their efforts between November 2022 and June 2023 resulted in eight matches, including five friendlies, all of which were lost, with 18 goals conceded and only one scored.
Constantine, chosen by the FIFA-led Normalization Committee (NC) overseeing the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), previously had a successful stint coaching India’s national team. Under his leadership, India’s ranking improved from 173rd in 2015 to 97th in December 2018, and he played a crucial role in helping them qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.