Afghanistan take on Bhutan in the first Group B encounter at the Armed Forces ground in Kathmandu, hoping to cruise to an easy victory...
It is a measure of the progress, the Lions of Khorasan have made in the recent past that from being defeated 3-1 by Bhutan in 2008, they handed the Bhutan Eleven a 8-1 thrashing in the last SAFF Championship.
While most expect tomorrow’s game to be a walk in the park, Afghanistan’s defender Zohib Islam Amiri does not expect it to be that easy.
He told Goal, “Well we are missing 2 to 3 players, but as such, we are physically and mentally ready for the challenge.”
Refusing to see past the game against the Bhutan Eleven, the Mumbai FC player stated, “Well there is nothing you can say (about the result). Everyone is preparing a lot.”
However as much as Afghanistan have tried to play down the tags of being overwhelming favourites, a loss against Bhutan will be nothing short of a catastrophe, in their aim to finally win the tournament.
The Bhutan Eleven on their part, seem set to enjoy the competition, having no pressure of results on them. Their coach, Kazunori Ohara, mentioned as much, in the build-up to the tournament.
He warned teams from taking his squad lightly, while accepting his squad’s limitation. He opined, “”We prepared only for 2 weeks. Most of the players joined directly from club as they were busy in the Kings Cup.”
“We are not so strong but I want to surprise other countries participating,” he added for good measure, warning of their capacity to play as spoil-sport to other teams’ hopes of doing well in the Championship.
If they are to upset the odds against the Lions of Khorasan, they will have to hope that the likes of Passang Tshering and Chencho are in top form, as they provide the cutting edge up-front.
For Afghanistan, the squad seems much better equipped than last time, for a title challenge, but the 2011 protagonists like Amiri and Balal Arezou shall continue to play an important part in their quest for glory.
Regardless of the team the 2011 Finalists put out, a repeat of the 8-1 thrashing in Delhi cannot be ruled out, especially with Bhutan having made no real progress since then, while the Lions of Khorasan continue to prosper.
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