By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: Afghanistan’s National Football Team arrived in Doha from the UAE on Monday for the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
After more than 18 months of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Group E is now ready to resume matches.
According to AFC, the battle for top spot looks to be between Qatar and Oman while Afghanistan, India and Bangladesh fight it out for the automatic places in the third round of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup.
While Qatar holds a four-point lead going into the final phase of matches in the second round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023, the side has played one game more than second-placed Oman.
But having dropped just two points so far – in a 0-0 draw with India just eight months after being crowned Asian champions – victory for Qatar over the Indians plus a draw in their meeting with Oman on June 7 would be enough to guarantee top spot and confirm that berth in China in two years’ time.
Should Qatar win the group, the runners-up will be in a battle with the other second-placed teams across the eight groups in the second round hoping to have a good enough record to advance to the next phase of FIFA World Cup qualifying, AFC reported.
With seven group winners advancing to the third round, five of the best second-placed finishers would join them in going through.
AFC reported that the Oman side is already in a strong position to claim one of those spots should they not manage to climb over the Qataris, with 12 points from five games and matches against Qatar, Afghanistan and Bangladesh remaining.
However, the Afghan team presents the closest challenge to Oman but, with eight points separating Anoush Dastgir’s team from the Gulf side, the chances of overhauling them are slim.
Instead, Afghanistan’s focus will be on securing third spot in the group and guaranteeing themselves a place in the third round of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Much the same will apply for fourth-placed India, who have picked up three points from three draws in a disappointing campaign so far for Igor Stimac’s team, while Bangladesh will be looking to challenge the Afghans and Indians in a quest to avoid last place and the requirement to enter the playoffs for the third round of qualifying for the AFC Asian Cup.
Afghanistan’s captain, Farshad Noor has meanwhile been singled out as a player to watch as, according to the AFC, Noor provides a strong, technical presence at the heart of the Afghanistan midfield.
The 26-year-old headed in his side’s first goal in the second phase of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2023 when he netted the only goal of the game against Bangladesh in the nations’ meeting back in September 2019.
The Afghan team, which has just wrapped up a 10-day training camp in the UAE, will face Bangladesh on Thursday and play Oman on June 11 and India on June 15.