May 9, 2014 11:00 PM EDT

Afghanistan’s fairytale-like rise from the fifth division of world cricket in 2008 to qualifying for next year’s World Cup has been hailed as one of the sport’s biggest-ever success stories.

“I hope the World Cup is not a make-or-break for Afghanistan,” Rashid Latif, a coach with the Afghan team who was formerly a skipper on Pakistan’s team, said. “Their real cricket will start after the World Cup.”

Latif told AFP that the challenges the Afghan players had to face in their own lives meant they had shown admirable stamina when facing the pressure of the game.

“They are mentally tough and well built, too. As a coach I came to teach, but I have learned from them,” he said.

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