Qatar and Afghanistan will both kick off their World Cup qualifying second-round campaigns on Thursday, when they meet at the Khalifa International Stadium.
The hosts will enter qualifying at this stage, while their visitors have already navigated their way through the first round to reach this group.
Qatar will kick off their new World Cup qualifying bid in the second round of Asian qualifiers on Thursday, after hosting and featuring in the previous competition in 2022.
In their first-ever appearance on the global stage, The Maroons failed to make an impact in the group stage, becoming their first-ever hosts to score the fewest goals in a tournament of its kind, as well as the first hosts to lose all three of their group matches.
They have been busy in the year since that exit, too, and Carlos Queiroz took the reins of the national team in February, beginning with an unsuccessful CONCACAF Gold Cup campaign, before the Maroons featured in four international friendlies ahead of the beginning of their latest qualifying bid.
After suffering a defeat to Kenya and playing out draws with Russia and Iraq, Qatar were most recently in action at home to Iran last month, and they suffered a heavy 4-0 defeat despite the game remaining level until after the hour mark as Hossein Kanaanizadegan eventually netted a brace alongside goals from Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Having failed to build a degree of momentum in their preparations, the Maroons will now enter qualifying for the 2026 World Cup with the aim of bouncing back and beginning with a three-point haul to establish their dominance in the group.
They meet an Afghanistan side who will also fight to kick off with a win in the second-round group, having kicked off their latest World Cup Qualifying bid with an aggregate victory in the first round last month.
Having not reached a World Cup group stage in their history, Afghanistan began their latest campaign in the first round in October, having previously not won in any competition since a friendly victory in March 2022.
Following a 10-game winless streak across friendlies, Asian Cup Qualifying and the CAF Nations Cup, the Lions of Khorasan met Mongolia in October with a place in the second-round group on the line, and they got the advantage heading into the second leg with a 1-0 victory in Tajikistan, thanks to Jabar Sharza's goal on the hour mark, before sealing their progression with another one-goal triumph as Farshad Noor found the net 19 minutes from time in the reverse fixture.
Now with some renewed confidence in their camp, heading into the qualifying group alongside Qatar, India and Kuwait with the aim of a top-two finish to continue their journey, Ashley Westwood's team will aim to make it three wins on the bounce when they travel to the Khalifa International Stadium.
Carlos Queiroz has called up a squad with plenty of quality and experience for their first two qualifiers, and Al-Duhail's Almoez Ali will likely spearhead the attack having already netted 42 international goals in 93 caps at the age of 27 years old, with Mohammed Muntari likely to join him up front from the outset.
In support of them, Akram Afif is another danger man having scored 26 goals in 94 caps and will look to cause problems from the left flank, while Hassan Al-Haydos should feature in the midfield with 173 caps and 36 international goals to his name.
He should be partnered by Abdulaziz Hatem in the engine room, while Karim Boudiaf will likely move back to join Boualem Khoukhi at the heart of the defence, having each surpassed 100 international caps.
Afghanistan only made minimal changes between the two legs of their first-round tie with Mongolia, and they should again come into Thursday's test with a similar starting XI in their preferred 4-3-3 shape, with Farshad Noor bound to return to the midfield from the outset after netting the winning goal off the bench in their second 1-0 win last month.
He will likely join Noor Husin and Faysal Shayesteh in the engine room, although Rahmat Akbari does also have a claim for a starting spot after being given the nod from the outset last time out.
Elsewhere, Jabar Sharza will continue to lead the line after putting them ahead initially against Mongolia, while Mahboob Hanifi and Najim Haidary will continue to partner up at the heart of the back four following consecutive clean sheets.
Qatar possible starting lineup:
Barsham; Al-Rawi, Boudiaf, Khoukhi, Ahmed; Abdurisag, Al-Haydos, Hatem, Afif; Muntari, Ali
Afghanistan possible starting lineup:
Hamidi; Popalzay, Hanifi, Haidary, Skandari; Husin, Shaysteh, Noor; Haydary, Sharza, Azadzoy
We say: Qatar 4-0 Afghanistan
Qatar boast plenty more quality and international experience than their visitors, and they should fancy themselves to kick off the qualifying campaign with a dominant victory on home soil on Thursday.
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