Afghanistan will begin its first World Cup qualifying campaign since the Taliban's return to power on Thursday, with head coach Abdullah Al-Mutairi looking to push politics aside and let his team focus on beating Mongolia.

Afghanistan, which has never come close to securing a place at the FIFA World Cup, is hoping to advance to the second round of Asia's preliminaries for the 2026 tournament, but Al-Mutairi and his squad face a number of challenges.

Unable to play in front of their own fans due to the security situation in Afghanistan, they are playing the "home" leg in neighboring Tajikistan before facing Mongolia in Ulaanbaatar in the return match on Tuesday.