I reffed an exhibition game between Afghanistan and Botswana on Sunday night. Not surprisingly, Afghanistan won handily and controlled the tempo of the game. What was surprising was how effortless the victory seemed to be.
Botswana is not a strong team, but Afghanistan clearly showed it has skill, poise in midfield, and a capable enough keeper that even in a strong Group B, they have a legitimate chance. The main difference was Jordian Farahani in midfield. I'm not sure what enticed him to jump ship from El Salvador, but he is a major upgrade for any team at any position he wants to play. From purely a skill standpoint, Afghanistan can stand with almost any team in the tournament.
What will be interesting is to see if Afghanistan can stay organized and disciplined enough against three veteran teams in Laos, Canada, and Jamaica. Obviously, Laos has been to the show and knows how to pick apart every crack in a team. Canada is essentially the Enter roster and those guys know what it takes to win consistently. While Jamaica hasn't been that great in the past few tournaments, they're still run by Kevin and that gives them a tactical advantage over most squads.
What could be the tipping point for the Afghans? Height. Definitely not a tall team and not good at winning the ball in the air. It will be fun to see how a small, fast, skilled team will match up with power and organization. I'll cheer for Afghanistan, but I'm guessing they'll have a similar result as 2011.