ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan men’s football team beat Cambodia 1-0 on Tuesday to win their first ever FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad, courtesy of a stellar goal by midfielder Harun Hamid.
This was the first football match hosted by the South Asian country in eight years and signaled the homecoming of international football to the country. Pakistan last hosted Afghanistan in 2015 in Lahore and before that, the national team played its last home World Cup qualifier in 2011 against Bangladesh.
After the first half between the two teams remained goalless, an excellent assist by Fareed Ullah helped Hamid net one in the 68th minute of the match, taking the score to 1-0.
“Harun Hamid’s superb finish against Cambodia to win Pakistan its first ever WCQ,” Football Pakistan, an independent online football platform in Pakistan, wrote on social media platform X and posted a video of the goal by the Pakistani midfielder.
Videos shared by the Pakistan Football Federation showed hundreds of fans celebrating in the stadium after the match ended, as the Pakistani footballers prostrated in celebration.
Congratulations poured in from all quarters after Pakistan emerged as the victors.
Leading Pakistan Super League (PSL) franchise Multan Sultans congratulated the men’s football team on the win.
Former Pakistan captain and ex-cricketer Mohammad Hafeez felicitated the national team for winning the contest as well.
Last week, Pakistan held Cambodia to a goalless match during the opening leg of the first-round qualifier in Phenom Penh. With the victory today, Pakistan advance to the next round of the World Cup qualifiers.
The green shirts will now face comparatively impressive football teams Saudi Arabia, Tajikistan and Jordan in Group G of the second round of the World Cup qualifiers. A total of 36 teams will be grouped into nine groups, four teams each, with the winners and runners-up then progressing through to the third round.
Last month, Pakistan’s football body announced the appointment of Stephen Constantine, an elite FIFA instructor since 2000, as the new head coach of the men’s national squad ahead of the World Cup qualification match. Constantine has earned respect in South Asia for taking India 176 to 96 in international rankings.
Pakistan are currently at 197th position with 847.67 points on the FIFA Men’s World Ranking, while Cambodia are at 177th spot.
Pakistan has faced many challenges in international football over the years, including multiple suspensions of the country’s domestic premier division in the last six years. The last one was in April 2021, when FIFA banned PFF due to “third-party interference” after a “hostile takeover” of the body’s headquarters in Lahore and the ousting of a FIFA representative by a rival group.
FIFA restored PFF’s membership in June 2022.