FIFA Ranking: 149
Last match played: Oman 3-0 Afghanistan (10 October 2019)
Coach: Anoush Dastgir
Afghanistan as a nation started playing full-fledged international football only from 2002. Before that, they had merely participated at the 1948 Olympics and played a 1984 AFC Asian Cup qualifying game which they lost to Jordan.
There was an 18 years gap after which football returned to 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 qualifications. 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 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 has not been 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 have had three outings so far. 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 wins over Bangladesh in Tajikistan. They lost 3-0 to Oman in their third match.
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.
|H-H||GAMES||INDIA WINS||DRAWS||AFGHANISTAN WINS||GOALS (INDIA)||GOALS (AFGHANISTAN)||GD (INDIA)||WIN % (INDIA)|
Anoush Dastgir generally prefers a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-5-1 formation for this Afghanistan side. Given the fact that India are a stronger opponent on paper compared to the Afghans, the 29-year-old coach might just crowd his midfield and defence. He can also take a leaf out of Bangladesh coach Jamie Day's book whose midfield consolidation tactics choked India a month back.
The midfield is certainly their strength and Afghanistan will be looking to crowd it out. It is a toss-up between Omran Haydary and Zubayr Amiri for the number nine slot but young Omran might have to sacrifice his place for experienced forward Zubayr in this all-important clash.
POSSIBLE LINEUP: Ovays Azizi; Hassan Amin, Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri, Najim Haidary, Farzad Ataee; Noor Husin, Adam Najem, Farshad Noor, Norlla Amiri, Faysal Shayesteh; Zubayr Amiri.
PLAYERS TO LOOK OUT FOR
Haroon Amiri: Haroon Amiri or Zohib Islam Amiri will be a known face for the Indian contingent as the player has played in India for a very long time. The central defender came to India back 2011 and had joined Mumbai FC. He had played there for three seasons before moving to Dempo. Amiri had also played in the inaugural edition of the Indian Super League (ISL) for FC Goa.
The defender had moved out of India after seven seasons last year and joined Maldivian club New Radiant SC. He is once again back in India this season and has joined I-League Gokulam Kerala FC. Amiri is Afghanistan’s most capped international played with 48 appearances under his belt.
The Afghanistan skipper is one of the most high profile players in the squad. He graduated from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven’s youth system and was promoted to the club’s senior team in 2013. He was there at the club for two seasons but never got a chance to take the field for the club.
Farshad Noor is currently plying his trade with Cypriot first division club Nea Salamis. The 25-year-old midfielder has scored Afghanistan’s only goal in the World Cup qualifiers so far against Bangladesh.
|Position||AFGHANISTAN squad for World Cup Qualifier|
Ovays Azizi, Ahmad Hellal Hosseini, Faisal Hamidi
Hassan Amin, Haroon Fakhruddin Amiri, Zelfy Nazary, Milad Intezar, Najim Haidary, Farzad Ataee, Sharif Muhammad, Benjamin Nadjem, Ali Baset Nazari.
Noor Husin, Adam Najem, Farshad Noor, Faysal Shayesteh, Abassin Alikhil, Naeem Rahimi, Mustafa Azadzoy, Milad Intezar, Rahmatullah Khairkhah, Norlla Amiri, Milad Intezar.
Zubayr Amiri, Omran Haydary.