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The attacking midfielder backed his side to come good in the semi-finals against the host nation...

GOALBY   AYUSH SRIVASTAVA     Follow @ayush_sri on twitter

Afghanistan are to face Nepal in the first semi-final of the SAFF Championship at the Dashrath Rangshala Stadium, this evening.

Yusef Mashriqi acknowledged that the Gorkhalis are a tough nut to crack in Kathmandu but the Afghans can ‘take them’ down in their own backyard.

“It’s (winning the SAFF Championship) going to be meaning a lot. Going into the game in Nepal, mentally it keeps coming back in my mind. It will mean a lot to the fans. To win against Nepal will be tough in their own backyard. We will take them down with our strength and heart. We are also missing two key players in Faisal Safa and Djelaludin Sharityarat at the back who were injured before the tournament. But we will manage and hopefully we can win as we are confident,” he told GOAL.


Afghanistan haven’t had a smooth ride into the final four as they were made to sweat by both Bhutan and Sri Lanka before they got their act together in the second half to win the three points. Mashriqi explained that his side are only getting better with each game as they haven’t played on a natural grass surface for long.

“I’m sure you have seen my frustration. I thought Bhutan and Sri Lanka made good arrangement against us. We are not used to natural grass surface. Not everyone brought studs and we didn’t find the size here (in Nepal). But performance wise the team has done well. Against Maldives it was slightly better where we played better football to create more chances. Hopefully we will get everything right together against Nepal.”

 Playing in front of a packed house with almost every person in the stadium rooting against them, Mashriqi is excited at the prospect of beating Nepal in front of their home crowd.

“I like to play in front of big crowd and I am looking forward to it. We will be playing in front of 30,000 of their fans and we have opportunity to upset a country in front of their own fans. Our team is confident and happy.”

Afghanistan were the second lowest ranked side in the last edition of SAFF Championship and since then, have become the highest ranked in the region.

“It is a great achievement but an expected one as we have players from Europe, America and also the players from Afghanistan have been tremendous. When we played the clubs in Kabul, I saw some great football. The improvement is tremendous.”


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