Pakistan paired again with Cambodia in FIFA WC Qualifiers

By our correspondent

LAHORE: Pakistan on Thursday were clubbed with Cambodia in the 2026 FIFA World Cup Asian Qualifiers Round-1 whose matches will be held in October.
The first leg between the two nations of the round, which will be played on home and away basis, will be held on October 12, followed by the second show on October 17. This is the second time on trot that Cambodia and Pakistan have been drawn in the World Cup Qualifiers Round-1.

In the 2022 Qatar World Cup Qualifiers Cambodia beat Pakistan in both the legs in 2019. They downed Pakistan 2-0 in Phnom Penh and then conquered the Green-shirts 2-1 at the latter’s backyard in Doha.

Pakistan’s head coach Shehzad Anwar said that this time they would beat Cambodia. “You know last time the conditions were not favourable and this time I hope we will do better and will beat the opponents,” Shehzad told ‘The News’ after the draws.

“There were various factors which caused the failure of Pakistan against Cambodia last time in 2019. The federation was facing issues at home. The other thing was that we were playing game on the next day after Eid. You know in Ramadan the performance of Muslim nations is affected,” Shehzad said.

“The second reason was that the team which we were carrying had broken in December 2018 when a parallel body emerged and in the next six months there was no football activity in Pakistan. Some key players of the national team were not allowed to join Pakistan team for the Qualifiers and we had to play with the available local stuff and some diaspora players,” Shehzad said.

This correspondent knows that because of the parallel bodies issue Pakistan did not have the services of top players including Saddam Hussain, Saqib Hanif, Umair and defender Naveed in that round against Cambodia.

Pakistan held their camp in Bahrain and chose Doha as their home venue for that round because of the dispute. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Denmark-based captain Hassan Bashir termed the draws exciting. “Yes, these are exciting draws,” Hassan told ‘The News’ from Denmark. “I think we have a big chance,” he added.

“We have gained a lot of experience and the results, although, were not according to our hopes but these six games experience will help us,” he said.

“I am very positive and the target is to win both legs and we are looking forward to creating history in Pakistan’s football. I have not yet spoken to the lads but definitely it’s a good chance for us inshaAllah,” Hassan said.

A total of 20 teams were divided into ten pairs, with each pair to play one home and one away match on October 12 and 17, respectively.

Afghanistan were drawn to play Mongolia while Maldives will face Bangladesh. Singapore and Guam will square off for a place in Round 2 with Yemen playing Sri Lanka and Myanmar to meet Macau.

Chinese Taipei will meet Timor-Leste and Indonesia will face off against Brunei Darussalam. Hong Kong have been pitted against Bhutan while Nepal will face Laos.

The ten winners of Round 1 will proceed to Round 2, where they will be joined by the remaining 26 teams.

These 36 sides will be drawn into nine groups of four, competing against each team in a home-and-away round-robin format, between November 2023 and June 2024.

All nine group winners and the runners-up will advance to the third round of World Cup qualifying and at the same time seal their places at the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027.

The draw for the third round of the global showpiece in 2026 will be conducted in 2024 where the 18 teams will be divided into three groups of six with the top two from each group qualifying directly for the FIFA World Cup 2026. The other two direct AFC entrants will be determined in the fourth round of World Cup qualifying, with one more possible berth available via an intercontinental playoff.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *