Thu, 28 Oct, 2021
Mashad: Syria stormed to the top of the Group E standings with an emphatic 6-0 win over Afghanistan in their opening match in the 2018 FIFA World Cup/2019 AFC Asian Cup joint-qualifiers.
Veteran striker Raja Rafe opened the scoring in the 19th minute before beating Afghanistan keeper Mansur Faqiryar for a second time 16 minutes later as Syria took control of the Group E encounter.
Moayed Al Ajan made it 3-0 in the 42nd minute before Faqiryar - who was MVP of the tournament as Afghanistan won the 2013 SAFF Championship - had to be replaced by Fardeen Kohistani, one of just five players in Slaven Skeledzic’s squad who play they club football in the Afghan Premier League.
The Shaheen Asmayee FC shot-stopper shutout Syria until the 70th minute when Abdul Razak Al Hussein added a fourth before substitute Sanharib Malki, the 31-year-old Turkey-based striker who came on on the hour mark in place of Mahmoud Al Mawas, made it 5-0 five minutes later.
But Afghanistan’s misery wasn’t complete until four minutes into second-half stoppage time when Omar Khrbin scored number six from the penalty spot as Syria went to the top of the table on goal difference ahead of Singapore, who enjoyed a 4-0 win over ASEAN rivals Cambodia in Thursday’s other Group E fixture.
The teams in Round 2 will compete according to a double round robin format, with the qualification matches held between June 11, 2015 to March 29, 2016.
The group winners and four best runners-up (total 12 teams) will advance to the 2019 Asian Cup finals and the final round of qualifying for the 2018 World Cup.
The next best 24 teams from the preliminary stage of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining slots (12 slots or 11 slots + 1 slot for the host) in the 24-team 2019 Asian Cup finals.