BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Although Afghanistan are in Malaysia for the Airmarine Cup as a last-minute replacement, head coach Anoush Dastgir has insisted that his charges have come prepared.
The invitational friendly tournament initially involved New Zealand, Oman, Singapore and hosts Malaysia, but the Oceania country pulled out and were replaced by Solomon Islands. However, just weeks before the kick-off date, Solomon Islands had to withdraw as well due to the fact that they had overbooked friendly matches in the current FIFA international window. Afghanistan were quickly called in to fill the slot.
But when asked by Goal in the Afghanistan-Oman pre-match press conference on Monday, the 29-year old Dastgir remarked that Afghanistan are nevertheless adequately prepared for the tournament.
"We already had one friendly against Kuwait prepared, but at the last minute some issues cropped up at the federation level and we could not go there. Afterwards we received an invitation from the Malaysian FA (for the Airmarine Cup), so our preparations continued, only the destination changed.
"Of course the 20-hour travel here and the time difference are a little hard, but I've had the players for a year, while having gone through two centralised camps in Turkey and six matches. We are prepared. Winning the cup will mean a lot to the players too, as they want to give something back to the country," said the former Afghanistan international.
He further added that lifting the title will provide his fellow countrymen back home something to cheer about
"You probably already know that life is hard in Afghanistan, and there are not a lot of things that can make the people happy.
"Football is one of them and the players know how important it is to the people. This motivates us further [in the tournament]," said Dastgir.
Commenting on their Wednesday opponents, he remarked that Oman are a side that they respect, having played against and lost to the West Asian side previously.
"This is an important match as it's one of the last matches before the World Cup/Asian Cup qualifiers. We're looking forward to the match. I've had this set of players for longer than a year and they come from all over the world.
"I have a lot of respect for Oman, we played against them around one and a half year ago and lost 2-0. They have a new head coach now, but Afghanistan are also stronger than ever, so it should be a great match tomorrow. We want to get a good result and then win the tournament," he added.
Follow Goal Malaysia 's Instagram account here: