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Turkmenistan’s Miše pinpoints Sri Lanka opener

Kuala Lumpur: Recently-appointed Turkmenistan head coach Ante Miše reacted positively to his side’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying draw, pinpointing an early win in Sri Lanka as the key to a chance of progression.

The Central Asian nation will face Korea Republic, Lebanon and DPR Korea – all of whom qualified for AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 – in Group H, as well as Sri Lanka: the lowest-ranked team remaining in the competition at 201st in the world.

Turkmenistan will begin their campaign against the Sri Lankans on September 5, and Miše, who was appointed to the head coaching role in March, believes three points in that match could be the platform his team needs to challenge for further honours.

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“(The draw) could be better, it could be worse,” said the former Croatia national team midfielder.

“We expected such opponents and our first game will be important, against Sri Lanka. If we win that first game, we will have a good chance to make something.

“Korea Republic is the best of course, but (against) DPR Korea and Sri Lanka, we should win those games, then we will have a good chance to be in at least third place.”

Reaching third will take Turkmenistan to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying round but finishing one place higher gives them a chance at securing a direct return to the Continental Finals, as well as the chance of a history-making tilt at a first ever FIFA World Cup Finals.

Many of Miše’s players come from high-flying Ashgabat-based club and 2018 AFC Cup runners-up FC Altyn Asyr, which provided 12 of Turkmenistan’s squad at this year’s AFC Asian Cup, but PFC Lokomotiv’s Arslan Amanov, FC Dordoi’s Vahyt Orazsahedov and Czech-based creator Ruslan Mingazov underline a growing overseas-based contingent.

The new man in charge got a good look at his charges at a June training camp in the United Arab Emirates, and liked what he saw in a friendly against a Uganda side who went on to reach the knockout stage in their own continental championship.

“We have been together for about 15 days in Dubai and played a friendly match with Uganda,” Miše said.

“We played 0-0 before the Africa Cup of Nations, and I saw a lot of good things in my national team and I hope we can be even better. We have a good chance.”

Turkmenistan’s road to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 begins on the road in Sri Lanka on September 5, before they face Korea Republic at home five days later.

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