October 18, 2023
ISLAMABAD – Pakistan on Tuesday secured its first-ever victory in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, defeating Cambodia 1-0.
Harun Hamid Khan’s 68th-minute goal in the thrilling match held at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad proved to be the difference between Cambodia and Pakistan.
With the maiden victory, the hosts have now advanced to the second round of preliminaries for the 2026 edition of football’s showpiece tournament.
The Men in Green will face Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Tajikistan in Group G during the second round of the qualifiers, according to Anadolu Agency.
The first leg of the tie between the two sides last week ended in a goalless draw in Cambodia, it added.
The victory aligned with the return of international football to the country, which is typically more fervent about cricket, marking the end of an eight-year hiatus.
Pakistan’s last home game was a 2-1 win over Afghanistan in Lahore back in February 2015. In two World Cup qualifying campaigns since then, they played their home legs on neutral venues.
The first-round qualifier for the 2018 tournament against Yemen had to be relocated to Bahrain due to security concerns in Lahore. Similarly, in the 2022 edition, the home leg of the tie against Cambodia was moved to Doha because of the turmoil within the Pakistan Football Federation. Cambodia ultimately emerged victorious with a 4-1 aggregate score against Pakistan.
Talking to the media after the match ended, caretaker Information Minister Murtaza Solangi congratulated both the teams and termed today’s match a “victory for football”.
Solangi lauded the remarkable sportsmanship exhibited by both Cambodia and Pakistan. He also emphasised how football was a sport of the masses and has always been loved by people across Pakistan.
He also lamented the intrusion of politics into the realm of sports.