Islamabad: In a historic moment for Pakistani football, the national men’s team secured their first-ever World Cup qualifying win by defeating Cambodia 1-0 on Tuesday. The thrilling victory sent ripples of excitement through the Jinnah Sports Stadium and among fans nationwide. It marked a significant milestone for a country that has faced numerous challenges in the world of international football.
First Leg Ends in a Draw
The first leg of the qualifying match, held in Phnom Penh, concluded in a goalless draw, setting the stage for an intense showdown in the return fixture on Pakistani soil. The lone goal of the match came in the 67th minute when Harun Hamid struck a brilliant half-volley that found the back of Cambodia’s net, igniting joyous celebrations.
Advancing to the Next Round
This victory propels Pakistan into the second round of World Cup qualifiers, where they will face formidable opponents in the form of Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan, and Jordan, setting the stage for another testing journey on the international stage. The win serves as a testament to the hard work, dedication, and perseverance of the players and coaching staff who have longed for this moment of glory.
Pakistan’s road to this historic victory was anything but easy. The national team, ranked 197th in the world, had not secured an international win since 2018. Furthermore, FIFA imposed a 15-month ban on Pakistan in April 2021 due to “undue third-party interference.” This was the second ban in four years, severely affecting the team’s progress.
The Constantine Effect
To revive the national team’s fortunes, the appointment of Englishman Stephen Constantine as the new coach brought renewed hope. Constantine had previously coached India’s national team and successfully led them from a ranking of 173rd in 2015 to 97th in December 2018, helping them qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup. His expertise and leadership have been pivotal in Pakistan’s resurgence.
Before their historic win against Cambodia, Pakistan endured a difficult phase, marked by a 13-match losing streak. With Constantine’s guidance and rigorous training, the team began its journey to redemption. Despite facing challenging opposition, they displayed grit and determination.
The Return of International Football
The victory over Cambodia not only signifies Pakistan’s progress on the footballing front but also heralds the return of international football to the country after an eight-year hiatus. The last time Pakistan played an international match on home soil was in 2015 when they faced Afghanistan in Lahore. This breakthrough win is bound to galvanize and inspire a new generation of Pakistani footballers and fans.
As Pakistan continues its journey in the World Cup qualifiers, there is renewed optimism and a sense of purpose within the national team and its supporters. This historic win serves as a reminder that with determination and the right guidance, even the most challenging obstacles can be overcome.
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