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April 18, 2019

Pakistan, Cambodia to play FIFA WC qualifier

Sports

April 18, 2019

KARACHI: Pakistan will face Cambodia in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup 2023 preliminary joint qualification round-1 which will comprise two legs to be held on June 6 and June 11 this year.

This was unveiled during draws for the 12 lowest-ranked sides of Asia held at the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) headquarters in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. The six winners will join the 34 nations in the second round to be held in September. Seeded teams Malaysia, Cambodia, Macau, Laos, Bhutan and Mongolia were handed challenging fixtures for a place in the next qualifying round, the AFC said in a press release after the draws.

Mongolia, who edged Timor-Leste in the previous edition to earn their place in the second round, will face a Brunei Darussalam side who were defeated 3-1 on aggregate by Chinese Taipei in the 2018 Qualifiers, it added. The match-up between Macau and Sri Lanka will be a rematch of their 2016 AFC Solidarity tie, where both teams settled for a 1-1 draw with Macau going on to top the group and finish runners-up behind eventual winners Nepal, it said.

Laos and Bangladesh will add spice to the mix when they face each other for a place in the second round. Both teams are beginning their qualifying campaign in round-1 for the first time after usually starting from round-2.

Malaysia will face a familiar foe when they take on Timor-Leste, a team they beat in the previous edition in the second round group stage.

Cambodia defeated Macau 4-1 in the previous edition and will face Pakistan, who lost 3-1 to Yemen in the first round in the 2018 Qualifiers. Bhutan will face tough opponents in Guam.

The AFC informed that Timor Leste are ineligible to participate in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup after the AFC Disciplinary and Ethics Committee expelled the Federacao Futebol Timor-Leste from the tournament in January 20, 2017, for fielding ineligible players. Their participation in Wednesday’s draw was for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 only, the AFC clarified. It is not yet known whether Pakistan would be able to play in the key qualifiers because of complicated issues. A fact-finding mission of FIFA and AFC will land in Lahore on May 28 and hardly a week after the vital visit qualifiers first leg will be held on June 6.

It means that it is not possible that the world body will be able to take any decision about Pakistan’s issue. And there are chances that the Green-shirts would miss the joint qualifiers like they missed last month the 2020 Olympics Qualifiers in Uzbekistan.

According to the April 4, 2019 world rankings Cambodia occupies 173rd spot while Pakistan is at the 200th place. Former Pakistan captain Mohammad Essa on Wednesday said that all parties concerned should set aside their personal interests and ensure Pakistan’s participation in the major event.

“It would really hurt our football and Pakistan’s image if team misses the qualifiers. We have a winning chance against Cambodia and we should not miss it,” Essa told ‘The News’ from his hometown Chaman.

“Everyone knows the constitution of FIFA. And it is clear that FIFA never changes its stance but it would be better if we change ourselves,” the former playmaker said.He urged the Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and ensure Pakistan’s participation in the joint qualifiers for 2022 World Cup and 2023 Asian Cup,” Essa said. He stressed that FIFA Constitution should be followed.

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