‘Pakistan can beat Cambodia in historic World Cup qualifier’ [Express Tribune]

‘Pakistan can beat Cambodia in historic World Cup qualifier’ [Express Tribune]

by Natasha Raheel

KARACHI: Pakistan will be playing its most important match today as they will take on Cambodia in the FIFA World Cup qualifier second leg at Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad.

It is the first time since 2011 that the team will play in the World Cup qualifier tie at home.

“I think we’ll make history, and this credit will go to Stephen Constantine, definitely, we are hoping for the best, we will qualify for the second round, we will create history here, that’s my prediction,” former national team midfielder Muhammad Adil told The Express Tribune as he is excited about the match much like everyone else in the Pakistani football community.

That tie was against Bangladesh which Pakistan lost on average despite playing a goalless draw, but they had conceded three goals in their away leg in Dhaka.

The campaigns for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers (against Yemen) and the 2022 World Cup (against Cambodia) were equally unsuccessful as before, but the team did not play these ties at home.

Overall, this is the first international match that Pakistanis will be playing since 2015 at the home ground, which was a friendly against Afghanistan.

However, Adil, who became the first Pakistani to sign a club contract abroad, believes that the men in green will make history. His prediction for the away leg was also spot on.

Pakistan drew its first leg with Cambodia in a goalless draw that took place on October 12 at the Phon Penh Olympic Stadium.

“Pakistan has the advantage of the home ground, and we can definitely, definitely win this 1-0 here,” Adil told The Express Tribune. “The result can be somewhere between 2-1 or 1-0 in favour of Pakistan.

“The team is in good shape compared to the ones we’ve had before; it is a better team, and the new coach Stephen Constantine has made a huge difference. He has seen how Cambodia plays and I am sure the game that Pakistan will be playing will be more attacking compared to the first leg.

“The game we played in the first leg was very defensive with the team system he used. 4-4-2, all the 11 players were those who were those who are good at winning the ball, but not so great at scoring.

“I feel the strategy will be different in this leg. Cambodia plays short passes, but ours is more on the long side.

Adil pointed out that Cambodia will have trouble playing this leg primarily because of the time.

The match will be played at 2:00 p.m. instead of the usual evening matches because Jinnah Stadium does not have floodlights available at the venue.

“Cambodians are more used to playing at the night/evening; this can be our advantage. The pace of game changes a lot during the day compared to night,” said Adil, who has played in their league.

The Cambodian team arrived in Islamabad on Sunday in the wee hours and had a few practice sessions before the match.

The officials and players of Pakistan and Cambodia teams spoke at the press conference on Oct 16.

The press conference got postponed twice before it finally happened in the late evening.

Published in The Express Tribune, 17 October 2023