AFC Asian Cup qualifiers: All you need to know about Afghanistan, India's opponents in the third-round group

Indian men’s football team will be looking to move closer to an AFC Asian Cup 2023 berth when they take on the wounded Afghanistan at the Salt Lake Stadium in Kolkata on Saturday.

The Blue Tigers are currently sitting at the top of the points table in Group D after their win over Cambodia in their first match while Anoush Dastgir’s men who faced a defeat against Hong Kong in their first match need a win to stay in contention for an AFC Asian Cup berth.

Ahead of the meeting between the two teams, here’s a detailed look at Afghanistan.

History

The Afghanistan men’s football team was formed in 1922, but they got their affiliation to FIFA in 1948. Afghanistan Football Federation was one of the founding members of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) in 1954.

Afghanistan started playing regular international football only after 2002. Before that, they had only participated at the 1948 Olympics and played a 1984 AFC Asian Cup qualifying game in which they were able to score against Jordan but lost the match by 6-1. They finished last in their group.

Their first big international tournament was back in 2003, which was SAFF Gold Cup where they failed to win a single match. Next year in the 2004 AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers they managed to win against Kyrgyzstan but couldn’t make it to the next round. The biggest achievement for Afghanistan Football came in 2013 when they won their first ever international trophy at the SAFF Championship which was held in Nepal.

Currently ranked 150th in the FIFA rankings, Afghanistan have not had much luck on the international scenario.

Form Guide: LLLWD

Afghanistan has only managed to win one game in their last five encounters. The win came against the Kuwait U-23 side. Their last match was against Hong Kong which they lost by a 2-1 scoreline.

Head-to-Head

India and Afghanistan have faced each other on nine occasions. In those nine encounters, India came on top in four while Afghans managed to win three, and two matches ended in a draw. The last time India faced the Lions of Khurasan was in 2019 in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. The earlier game in the World Cup qualifiers which was held in Dushanbe also ended in a 1-1 draw as India equalised in the dying minutes through Seiminlen Doungel.

Key Players

Farshad Noor: The Captain of the Afghanistan team plays a pivotal role in the midfield. The 27-years-old midfielder has experience of playing in the Dutch football system. He graduated from Dutch giants PSV Eindhoven’s youth system and was promoted to the club’s senior team in 2013. Currently, he is playing for the middle eastern club Bahrain SC. He has scored one goal for Afghanistan in twenty-three appearances.

Faysal Shayesteh: The 31-year-old is one of the most experienced players in the Lions of Khurasan, he has appeared in 48 matches and scored eight times for his side. Before playing for Afghanistan, he represented the Netherlands in the U-15. The Indian defenders have to be at the top of their game to contain the Afghani midfielder.

Zohaib Amiri: The 32-years-old center-back is the most capped player in the Afghanistan contingent. And he’s one of the players in the Afghan squad, who’s familiar with the Indian team. The central defender played in the inaugural edition of the Hero Indian Super League (ISL) for FC Goa. The defender is also known for his long balls and accuracy. His knowledge of Indian players could be an asset for Afghanistan.

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