Scouting the Opponent: Afghanistan
What: 1st Leg Preliminary World Cup Qaulifier
Where: Mettallurg Arena, Tursunzoda, Tajikistan
Kickoff: 1230 GMT
FIFA Rank: 166 (34th AFC)
Previous Encounters: None
vs. Nepal L 0-1
vs. Sri Lanka W 1-0
vs. Korea DPR L 0-2
Background: Afghanistan's preparations have been hampered by a temporary lack of funding, a feud between their Olympic Committee and Football Association, their manager's unexpected resignation, professional players pulling out, and a cancelled friendly. It's not looking too pretty, but less than ideal training camps have become almost normal for Team-e-Melli. Despite their troubles the Afghans reached a record ranking last month (164) and registered a whopping 5-0 aggregate win over Bhutan in preliminary Challenge Cup play and a 1-0 upset of Sri Lanka in group play. The team will be without Yousef Samy (San Jose Earthquakes/MLS) who has pulled out with an injury and Qays Shayesteh (Emmen/NED).
World Cup Squad: A feud between the FA and Afghan Olympic Committee threatened the arrival of the international players named in the squad. Now that that has been resolved they will probably be late arrivals to the camp. It is a situation not dissimilar from the one Palestine experienced in 2007 when Edgardo Abdala and Roberto Bishara arrived less than 24 hours before the 2010 World Cup qualifier against Singapore. That camp was also one marked by disorganization and the novelty of a volunteer manager brought on to coach the squad.
Key Players: Afghanistan will depend on a bunker-ball mentality with their defence being anchored by Djauludin Shariatyar who plays professionally in Cyprus. The keeper Mansoor Faqiryar, who plays in the German regional leagues will be called upon to be the hero multiple times. Look for Afghanistan to try and do some damage on the break through young forwards Sidiq Walizada (who scored his country's first ever hattrick against Bhutan) and Asker FC (Norway, not Palestine) starlet Bilal Arezou.