Football: AFC boss backs Afghans to reach Asian Cup

Football: AFC boss backs Afghans to reach Asian Cup
Afghanistan football players celebrate winning the SAFF Championship 2013 trophy after defeating India during the final match in Kathmandu on September 11, 2013.

KUALA LUMPUR - Asia's football chief Friday said Afghanistan had a strong chance of reaching the next Asian Cup after shocking India to lift their first international trophy.

Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said Afghanistan, who won the South Asian Football Federation title in Kathmandu on Wednesday, were now among the favourites for the AFC Challenge Cup.

Winners of the competition, to be held in the Maldives next year, will gain automatic entry to the continent's top tournament, the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

"Afghanistan's success in South Asia has... served a caution to 2014 AFC Challenge Cup title aspirants," the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) boss said.

"They have showed their mettle at the regional level and I think they would be one of the favourites in Maldives."

Wednesday's 2-0 win by Afghanistan, ranked 139th in the world, prompted heady scenes in Kabul where the team were welcomed home by the president and thousands of fans.

"I feel this victory will prove to be an inspiration to millions of Afghans around the world," Shaikh Salman said in a statement.

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