AMMAN: Jordan’s Yazan Al Naimat shoots under pressure from Pakistan’s Harun Hamid during their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Amman International Stadium.—courtesy Jordan Football Association
AMMAN: Jordan’s Yazan Al Naimat shoots under pressure from Pakistan’s Harun Hamid during their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifier at the Amman International Stadium.—courtesy Jordan Football Association

AMMAN: Despite trailing Jordan 2-0, Pakistan had finished the first half at the Amman International Stadium strongly.

But then came the meltdown; the character and determination showed by Pakistan five days earlier against the same opponents dissipating by the minute as Stephen Constantine’s men went on to concede five unanswered goals against their hosts to suffer their heaviest loss so far in their 2026 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign on Tuesday night.

Jordan’s 7-0 triumph took them into second spot in Group ‘G’, behind leaders Saudi Arabia, who were held to a 1-1 draw by Tajikistan, with Pakistan remaining rock-bottom.

Head coach Constantine has already stated that Pakistan’s first foray into the second round of World Cup qualifying is a chance for his players to prepare for the task ahead, when they drop into the third qualifying round for the 2027 AFC Asian Cup.

Constantine had hoped his players would build upon their 3-0 loss at home to Jordan on Thursday but this performance takes them back to the drawing board.

Jordan, looking to rack up the goals, scored at will and could’ve had more; the loss amplifying Constantine’s insistence on a the national league to resume in Pakistan to allow his players regular competitive action.

Pakistan had conceded twice in the opening nine minutes in the reverse fixture and Jordan, playing the first game in front of their fans since their memorable run to the Asian Cup final last month, had to wait until the 15th minute to fire up a raucous home crowd.

Mousa Al Tamari, who ended up with a hat-trick, timed his run to perfection to get on the end of a delightful through ball by Ibrahim Sadeh before opening up his body to plant a left-foot shot past Yousuf Butt.

Jordan doubled their lead just before the hour mark when a surging Yaizan Al Naimat was brought down in the box. Yousuf guessed correctly from the resulting spot kick but Al Naimat’s shot had too much power.

Pakistan were playing on the counterattack and after Harun Hamid sent a shot over the bar six minutes before half-time, Imran Kayani came closest to reducing the deficit three minutes later when his shot whistled past the post.

But any hope of Pakistan carrying on the momentum into the second half were dashed when striker Fareedullah came off injured at half-time with tests later revealing he’d suffered a broken collarbone.

And seven minutes into the second period, they had fallen behind 3-0. After a corner kick was swung into the box, an attempted bicycle kick fell into the path of Saeed Al Rosan, who tucked it away.

Al Tamari headed in a rebound 10 minutes later to make it 4-0 and Jordan’s fifth arrived with a quarter of an hour remaining when Ali Olwan received a pass from Al Naimat inside the box and buried it.

After Al Tamari’s solo effort saw him get his third in the 79th, Mohammad Abu Zraiq completed Pakistan’s miserable night when he curled in a brilliant free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net in the 82nd.

With the first two finishers in each of the nine groups advancing to the third round of the continent’s qualifiers for the finals in Canada, Mexico and the United States, 2034 World Cup hosts Saudi Arabia moved to the brink of qualification after their draw in Tajikistan.

The Saudis would have qualified with a win in Dushanbe but moved to 10 points from four games with matches against Pakistan and Jordan to come in June.

Firas Al Buraikan put the Saudis ahead in the 46th minute but Rustam Soirov’s equaliser 10 minutes from time delayed the celebrations for Roberto Mancini’s Gulf side.

QATAR, IRAN PROGRESS

In other late action on Tuesday, Asian champions Qatar, Iran, Uzbekistan and the United Arab Emirates secured progress to the next round.

Qatar defeated Kuwait 2-1 thanks to a late double from Almoez Ali, staying comfortably top of Group ‘A’ with four wins from four matches and with a place in the next round wrapped up.

In the same section, Afghanistan kept alive their chances of going through in second place with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over India.

Uzbekistan also confirmed their place in the third round with a 3-0 win over Hong Kong in Tashkent, with goals from Eldor Shomurodov, Hojimat Erkinov and Oston Urunov ensuring they would take one of the two berths available in Group ‘E’.

They will be joined in the next round from the group by Iran, with both nations on 10 points after Mehdi Ghayedi headed in the only goal in first-half stoppage time from Mehdi Taremi’s cross in a 1-0 win against Turkmenistan in Ashgabat.

Fabio Lima netted a brace to take the UAE through from Group ‘H’ having defeated Yemen 3-0 in the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar as Bahrain strengthened their grip on second place with a 3-0 victory over Nepal.

Kyrgyzstan and Oman are locked together on nine points at the top of Group ‘D’ after Kyrgyzstan eased to a 5-1 win over visitors Taiwan and the Omanis won 2-0 against hosts Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Syria demolished Myanmar 7-0 with Omar Khrbin scoring a hat-trick to move to within two points of Group ‘B’ leaders Japan, whose meeting with North Korea was cancelled when the secretive state said last week it would not host the meeting with Hajime Moriyasu’s side in Pyongyang.

Published in Dawn, March 28th, 2024

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