KARACHI: Pakistan’s hopes of notching their first win in their FIFA World Cup Qualifiers history were on Thursday dashed when they were beaten by Cambodia 2-0 in their first leg of the two-legged first round at the jam-packed Phnom Penh Stadium in Cambodia.
Under a heavy downpour, which particularly troubled Pakistan players, both sides played a tough game with Cambodia eventually striking double in the dying moments after a barren first half in which neither side could capitalise on the opportunities which came their way.
In the 81st minute, substitute Sieng Chanthea smashed the ball in from close range to put the hosts ahead. Minutes later, Kouch Sokumpheak doubled their lead when he dribbled past several Pakistani defenders before slotting the ball past the goalkeeper with an enviable ease to seal a comfortable win.
Pakistan’s cause was harmed by the decision to play front-runner Mohammad Riaz as left-back. “It was a good match but a couple of major mistakes in the defence deprived us of an advantage in our away leg,” a Pakistan team official told ‘The News’ while on his way to Doha on Friday.
“Cambodia did not play better than us. We created five chances but Cambodia got a couple of opportunities and converted them,” the official said. He said he was impressed by Denmark-based winger Adnan Mohammad Yaqub as he exerted pressure on the opponents. “Adnan played a class game. He showed great speed and ripped through the defence a few times but we were unlucky not to score goal,” the official said.
The official blamed Ashfaq Hussain Shah-led Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for Pakistan’s loss. “It was because of Ashfaq-led body that we lost. You know they held our key home-based players. Their warnings in the recent days made our home-based players and officials highly confused. They could not focus on their training in Bahrain fearing what will happen to them when they go back home,” the dejected official said.
Because some of the best Pakistan-based players were held by the Ashfaq-led PFF through a camp in Islamabad, FIFA-recognised PFF had no option but to select most of the foreign-based players.
“Had we got the assistance of our key home-based players we could have easily beaten Cambodia as we kept them in check for 80 minutes. Had we held them to a goalless draw then we would have been in a much better position to beat them at our home-leg in Doha on June 11,” the official pointed out.
However, he was quick to add that they would go all out in Doha. “We have no option but to go all out. I hope we will beat Cambodia with the margin that we need,” the official said. Pakistan have to beat Cambodia 3-0 in Doha if they are to qualify for the second round which will be held in September.
Doha’s Hamad bin Khalifa Stadium will host Pakistan-Cambodia second leg on June 11. According to sources the venue has been embellished with green colour and the Pakistan team official said he expected Pakistan fans to turn up and support them. “There are many Pakistanis in Doha. I hope they come to support us,” the official said.
PHNOM PENH: Cambodia are in pole position to advance to the second round of Asian qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup after beating Pakistan 2-0 in the opening encounter of their first-round clash on Thursday.
Following a goalless first half at the Phnom Penh Olympic Stadium, where it looked like Pakistan would be capable of frustrating the hosts for the entire 90 minutes, the deadlock was finally broken in the 81st minute.
After the opposition failed to fully clear their lines, the loose ball fell to 16-year-old Sieng Chanthea, who made no mistake in smashing home from close range to put his side ahead.
And, just three minutes later, Cambodia made sure of the win when veteran midfielder Kouch Sokumpheak embarked on an enterprising run and left a host of defenders in his wake before guiding his shot into the corner.
Both sides meet again in the second leg on Tuesday, where it already looks as though Cambodia will be confident in their prospects of advancing to the second round.
The loss means that there is much to do in the return game for Pakistan, whose football scene has been burdened by politics, corruption and incompetence for years.
The Pakistan team that is taking part in the World Cup qualifiers, largely made up of foreign-based players, has been sent by a Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) faction headed by Faisal Saleh Hayat, which isn’t recognised locally but is considered legitimate by FIFA.
The PFF led by Ashfaq Hussain Shah, who was elected to the post of president in an election conducted by the country’s Supreme Court following several years of turmoil, is recognised in the country.
The first game of the long qualification process for World Cup in Qatar was won by Mongolia, who beat Brunei 2-0.
With the tournament still nearly three and a half years away, Mongolia captain Tsedenbal Norjmoo scored the opening goal of the qualifiers with a free-kick in the ninth minute in Ulaanbaatar.
Brunei did create chances, but their finishing was wasteful, and Naranbold Nyam-Osor’s close-range effort left them with it all to do.
Tshering Dorji’s right-footed strike proved the only goal of the game as Bhutan won against Guam at the unique, ornate Changlimithang Stadium in Thimpu.
Macau won 1-0 at home to Sri Lanka and Bangladesh triumphed by the same narrow scoreline at Laos, with 19-year-old Robiul Hasan getting the only goal late on.
The six teams that win their opening-round ties will go through to the next phase, where a further 34 Asian sides join the qualifying competition.