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The Pakistan men’s football squad is back in action after the ban was lifted, and they are now eligible to qualify for the 2027 Asia Cup. Let’s see what Pakistan’s team’s path to qualifying for the AFC Asia Cup 2027 looks like.
Let us first look at Pakistan’s men’s football team’s history.
Pakistan Men’s Football Team
The Pakistan Football Federation, Pakistan association football’s governing body, is in charge of the national football team, which represents Pakistan association football in competitions that are sanctioned by FIFA. After joining the Asian Football Confederation, Pakistan joined FIFA in 1948, and its national squad made its debut in 1950.
Pakistan has never earned a spot in a significant competition held outside of South Asia. The fact that cricket has such a strong presence throughout South Asia has hindered football’s attempts to establish popularity in Pakistan. Pakistan would be the only Asian nation without a winning record in FIFA World Cup qualifying games as of 2022.
FIFA Suspension & SAFF Cup 2018
Pakistan was suspended from all football activities by FIFA on 10 October 2017. FIFA reinstated PFF membership on March 13th, 2018. The Pakistan Men’s Football team had an extremely short preparation period because the SAFF Cup was in September and the Asian Games were in August. From the middle of July to the end of the month, the team competed in friendlies against Bahrain’s top clubs. In Bahrain, Pakistan won two matches, tied one, and lost one.
Pakistan Men’s Football team traveled to Bangladesh to compete in the SAFF Cup, which began in September 2018 and was their first FIFA-recognized competition in three years. On September 4, 2018, Pakistan played their opening match of the competition against Nepal (40 rankings higher than the former at the time). Pakistan won 2-1. On September 6, 2018, Pakistan’s next encounter against Bangladesh’s hosts ended in a 1-0 loss after a late goal was allowed.
The Green Shirts defeated Bhutan 3-0 in their last group match on September 8, 2018, securing their participation in the semifinals for the first time in 13 years. On September 12, 2018, Pakistan met its bitter foe India in the semifinals, where they were finally defeated 3-1.
PFF was once again banned on April 7, 2021, and the suspension was removed on June 29, 2022. Both times, third parties’ intervention was the cause.
Also Read: What is Pakistan Football League?
The Road to the 2027 Asia Cup
The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) unveiled a new model for joint qualification to the two competitions, which will allow nations like Pakistan which has failed to qualify for both the World Cup and the Asian Cup on the last two occasions since qualifying for both the World Cup and the Asian Cup was merged to remain in contention for a ticket at the Asian Cup even if they lose the first home-and-away tie.
Pakistan will be hoping that the new format serves as motivation for its football team.
Pakistan Men’s Football has never won a World Cup qualifying match, and after losing to [Yemen] and Cambodia in the initial stages of qualifying for the 2018 and 2022 tournaments, respectively, it has gone eight years without seeing much competitive action.
Players haven’t played much either internationally or domestically due to the institutional crisis in the Pakistan Men’s Football Federation, which has led to Pakistan being suspended twice by FIFA, the most recent 14-month ban only being lifted in June this year.
This indicates that the expanded 48-team 2026 World Cup in the United States will have an Asian qualifying round. Pakistan Men’s Football, which is ranked 196th in the FIFA rankings, will probably be one of the 22 sides from the continent’s bottom half that will begin the first stage in October of next year, along with Mexico and Canada.
This time, unlike the previous two qualification cycles, countries like Pakistan that were eliminated in the first round of qualifying have a second chance to try to make the Asian Cup.
The top-ranked team from among the 11 teams that are eliminated in the first round advances to the Asian Cup qualifying round’s final round, while the remaining 10 teams will play in a playoff, with the five winners also moving on to the final round. The 24 teams there will join the 18 countries that did not advance to the third round of World Cup qualification, with the winners of each group earning a spot at the Asian Cup.
One of the primary goals of the Pakistan Men’s Football Team is to win the first round of the AFC Asia Cup Qualifier in October 2023. & 2nd goal is to Compete in Round 2 with better-ranked teams.