Rival Watch: India to face Afghanistan resistance in Asian Cup Qualifiers
The last meeting between these two teams ended in a stalemate.
The Indian National Football Team will play Afghanistan in the second game of the AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers. The match will be played on 11th June 2022 at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata. India played out an uninspiring 2-0 defeat against Jordan on 28th May as their only preparatory international friendly game ahead of the crucial set of fixtures.
Afghanistan on the other hand, come into the game with even lesser preparation. The Lions of Khorasan have had both their friendlies against Nepal cancelled, which were scheduled to take place on May 25 and 30 respectively.
India have never managed to qualify for successive AFC Asian Cups, and Afghanistan stand in the way of that unfulfilled dream. There are multiple implications to India's performance in these games, not the least of which is Igor Stimac's future with the side.
Afghanistan have played just two games since the second round of World Cup Qualifiers in June 2021. They defeated the Kuwait U-23 side 3-0 and succumbed to a 1-0 loss against the Jordan U-23 team in March 2022. They are also scheduled to play a friendly against Vietnam before heading to Kolkata for the Qualifiers.
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About the Team
Afghanistan are ranked 150th in the FIFA rankings. One of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC), they won the SAFF Championship in 2013.
In Anoush Dastgir, Afghanistan have one of the youngest senior managers in the world at the age of 32. The former Afghanistani international also manages the U21 side of the Netherlands-based club Almere City, while shouldering the hopes of his nation.
Anoush took charge of the club in March 2022 and previously coached VV Duno Doorwerth, also based in Holland. The 32-year-old's favoured formations are the traditional 4-3-3 and the 4-2-3-1.
Players to Watch
The 30-year-old is the player with the second-highest appearances for his nation. The attacking midfielder has amassed 50 appearances for the Lions of Khorasan.
He plies his trade for Dutch side VV Duno. Faysal has played across various positions in his long career, making him a versatile and important option for Dastgir.
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Ovays Azizi will be tasked with stopping the firepower of the likes of Liston Colaco and Sunil Chhetri. The 30-year-old has 36 appearances for his nation and currently plays for Swedish club Ariana.
After playing for different clubs in Denmark for 10 years, the shot-stopper returned to the subcontinent to don the green of Maziya S&RC in the Divehi Premier League. Afghanistan's no.1 has his task cut out against the Blue Tigers who will be desperate try their best to get all three points against a side ranked lower than them.
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The Makhachka-born defender will have a massive responsibility to oust the Indian attack on 11th June. The 32-year-old has prior experience of playing in India with his stint at Gokulam Kerala FC.
Defensive abilities aside, Sharif has a reputation for scoring goals from headers. The 6 feet tall defender scored nine goals in 38 games for Gokulam Kerala and will be a threat from set-pieces.
What to Expect
India will have no room for error against Afghanistan in a must win game. Irrespective of the qualities that Afghanistan have, Igor Stimac's men will back themselves to get the win.
However, with the last game between the two sides ending in a stalemate, Chhetri and co will be wary of the rivals and the threats they can possess.
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