Two years ago, Afghanistan was the surprise package of the Twenty20 World Cup cricket qualifying tournament. Now it is the team to beat.
The defending champion is the top seed at the 16-team tournament which begins Tuesday. But it is likely to face a stiff challenge from Ireland, which it beat by eight wickets in the 2010 qualifying final.
Other teams including the Netherlands and Kenya are also aiming to reach the finals and a ticket to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka from Sept. 18 to Oct. 7.
The shorter format should also offer plenty of opportunities for upsets with the likes of seventh-seeded Namibia, 16th-seeded Nepal and even the 15th-seeded United States looking to emulate the success of Afghanistan.