By Sports Reporter/Doha
Group E leaders Qatar will look to extend their unbeaten run when they take on Afghanistan in the joint World Cup 2022 and Asian Cup 2023 qualifiers at the Republican Central Stadium in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, today.
Felix Sanchez’s men have been the standout side in their group as they have won three matches out of four and have ten points. While they have not been at their best, Qatar players have got the job done so far.
Today’s match against Afghanistan should be an easy one for Qatar, at least on paper. However, cold conditions in Dushanbe and the artificial turf could pose a tough challenge for the Qatar team.
Striker Almoez Ali was confident though that Qatar can adapt to any conditions. “We have played in such conditions before, so it shouldn’t be a problem. We are professional players. We will do our best win our match,” he said
Qatar had beaten Afghanistan 6-0 at home last month and another drubbing cannot be ruled out. Al Duhail forward Almoez has already bagged four goals in this campaign, while Akram Afif comes into the fixture fresh from being nominated for AFC Men’s Player of the Year.
Sanchez, though, was not taking things for granted. “It will certainly not be an easy encounter. We will be looking for one more win and want to maintain the lead in our group. Against Afghanistan at home we played well. We are now leading the group, trying to work well and always looking to do better in the future,’’ the Spaniard said.
Meanwhile, Afghanistan return for their second trip to Dushanbe in five days after a last-minute goal from Seiminlen Doungel helped India salvage a 1-1 draw last Thursday.
Doungel’s equaliser was a bitter pill to swallow for Afghanistan, who would have been within three points of second-placed Oman coming into today’s fixtures had they managed to hold on.
Afghanistan coach Dastgir conceded the match will be a tough one for his side. “If we lose by one or two goals, this is a victory for us. But in general I hope that the conditions serve us and we will try as much as possible to keep a clean sheet,” he said.
Meanwhile, in another Group E match India face a trip to Oman. While India inflicted a late blow on Afghanistan last time out, it was they who suffered a similar fate when they met Oman in the opening fixture, with Erwin Koeman’s side snatching a 2-1 win having trailed with eight minutes remaining in Guwahati.
That win proved to be the start of a strong campaign for Oman, who have since breezed to two big wins in Muscat and pushed Qatar all the way in a 2-1 defeat in Doha.
Koeman’s brother Ronald has had a successful international career by leading their native Netherlands to UEFA Euro 2020 qualification, and the elder sibling of the family could be on the way to going one better by leading Oman to a maiden FIFA World Cup.
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