The Asian Football Confederation (AFC) will announce whether Pakistan qualify to play the Asian Cup on April 17.
According to a report, regardless of whether the 2022 FIFA World Cup is a 32-team tournament or is increased to a 48-team one, Pakistan’s road to Qatar won’t be easy. While an increase in the number of teams is expected to make the qualification path less rigorous, Pakistan won’t be benefitting. Just like qualifying for the 2018 showpiece in Russia, two preliminary round matches — within a week of FIFA’s final decision on the number teams at the World Cup — could see them end up without competitive matches for the next four years.
The AFC introduced a system in the previous qualification cycle that merged the road to the World Cup and the 2019 Asian Cup together. It will be the same this time around. “The qualifying draw is on April 17 in Kuala Lumpur and the format will be the same as last time with joint Asian Cup and World Cup qualification,” an AFC spokesperson told a local media outlet.
Last time out, Pakistan fell to Yemen at the first hurdle. That, combined with a dispute in the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF), meant Pakistan went more than three-and-half years without an international match.
At a dismal 199th in the FIFA rankings, as Asia’s second-worst team, Pakistan will start in the preliminary round which will feature Asia’s bottom 12 teams. FIFA will take a final decision at expanding the Qatar World Cup at its Congress in Paris on June 5.