By: The Kabul Times
KABUL: India takes on Afghanistan in their final Group E clash in the second round 2022 FIFA World Cup and 2023 AFC Asian Cup joint qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on Tuesday.
In June qualification, India resumed their campaign with a 1-0 loss against Qatar before bouncing back with a 2-0 win over Bangladesh courtesy of a brace by skipper Sunil Chhetri.
Afghanistan started playing full-fledged international football only from 2002. Before that, they had merely participated in the 1948 Olympics and played a 1984 AFC Asian Cup qualifying game which they lost to Jordan.
There was an 18-year gap after which football returned to a war-torn Afghanistan. Their first major competition since returning to the mainstream was in the 2003 SAFF Gold Cup where they lost all three-group stage matches to India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Their first major win came against Kyrgyzstan during the 2004 AFC Asian Cup qualifying round. Unfortunately, they lost to Nepal in the next round. Afghanistan’s next adventure was against Turkmenistan in the first round of the 2006 World Cup qualification. The Afghans suffered a humiliating 13-0 defeat in the two legs and crashed out of the competition.
The biggest moment in Afghanistan came in 2013 where they won their first ever international trophy at the SAFF Championship held in Nepal. It is also their only international trophy till date. The Afghans won the competition unbeaten, defeating India 1-0 in the final.
The very same year, Afghanistan saw a massive rise in the FIFA rankings. They rose 46 places from 186 in 2012 to 140 in 2013, their highest ever FIFA rank.
Afghanistan enjoyed good form in 2017. They had two friendly matches against heavyweight nations like Jordan and Vietnam and managed to draw both. While they played out an exciting 3-3 draw against Jordan, they had held Vietnam to a goalless draw.
Their good form continued in 2018 as well as they defeated Cambodia 2-1 and had drawn against Palestine.
2019 was not the best of years for Afghan football. They started the year by taking part in the Airmarine Cup hosted by Malaysia. They lost the semifinal tie 5-0 to Oman and then lost to hosts Malaysia in the third-place play-offs.
In the World Cup qualifiers, they started their campaign with a 6-0 drubbing at the hands of Qatar in Doha but they came back strong by registering slender 1-0 win over Bangladesh. They lost 3-0 to Oman in their third match. Then they drew 1-1 with India before losing 1-0 to Qatar.
Afghanistan prepared for the June qualifiers with a short camp in UAE where they played against Indonesia (3-2 win) and Singapore (1-1 draw).
After the qualifiers resumed in June 2021, they were held to a 1-1 draw by Bangladesh.
It has been difficult for Afghanistan both on and off the field as the team has been forced to relocate to Dushanbe, Tajikistan, owing to security concerns in their own country.
Lessons from the past
India enjoy a healthy track record against Afghanistan. The two teams have faced each other eight times out of which India have emerged victorious on six occasions. They have drawn once and lost on one occasion.
In the 2011 SAFF Championship, India and Afghanistan had played a 1-1 draw in the group stages and in 2013 SAFF final, the Afghans had outplayed the Indians to pick up a memorable 2-0 win in Kathmandu.
Ovays Azizi, Faizal Hamidi, Hamidullah Wakili, Milad Intezar, David Najem, Zohib Islam Amiri, Abdul Najim Haidary, Hassan Amin, Zelfagar Nazary, Hussain Alizada, Sharif Mukhammad, Abassin Alikhil, Omid Popalzay, Mohammad Naeem Rahimi, Samir Samandari, Farshid Haydari, Amiruddin Sharifi, Mustafa Zazai, Fardin Hakimi, Fareed Sadat Ahmad Oman Haydary, Noor Husin, Maziyar Kouhyar, Farshad Noor, Fayzal Shayesteh, Adam Najem, Noraollah Amiri, Hossein Zamani, Zubayr Amiri, Jabar Sharza.
Afghanistan team news
Afghanistan come into the tie on the back of a heartbreaking 1-1 draw against Bangladesh where they lost their 48th minute lead courtesy of Amruddin Mohammed Anwar Sharifi’s (48′), as Topu Barman (84′) equalized for the Bangla Tigers at the death. Anoush Dastgir’s side then conceded the third spot in the group to India as the latter defeated Bangladesh on June 7.
In the last meeting against India as well, The Lions of Khorasan had suffered a late setback in their home tie after Zelfy Nazary scored at the stroke of half-time (45+1′) but for Seiminlen Doungel equalize at the death (90+3′) for the Blue Tigers.