Skipper Hashmatullah Shahidi said the future was bright for Afghanistan cricket after a competitive defeat to South Africa on Friday completed a World Cup campaign in which they have exceeded all expectations.
Rassie van der Dussen hit an unbeaten 76 to lead the Proteas to a five-wicket win in Ahmedabad. Chasing 245 for victory, Van der Dussen guided his side home with 15 balls to spare ahead of their semi-final against Australia next week.
Azmatullah Omarzai had earlier hit an unbeaten 97 to lift Afghanistan to 244 all out in a match where they needed an unlikely 438-run win to make the last four. The Afghans posted wins over England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Netherlands to be in contention for the semi-finals until their Glenn Maxwell-inspired defeat to Australia.
Shahidi said: "As a captain, I am quite happy with our performances. We fought till the last moment in each and every game. We had good matches and had some good learnings for the future too.
"I am proud of the way our batters performed in this tournament. We were struggling before the World Cup. So, we sat together and talked about our weaknesses. In the end, you saw how our batters did and it is a positive sign for the future.
"Everyone knows we have good spinners. If we go with the same momentum that we had in the batting department this World Cup, we will do well. We gave a good message to the world. We played big teams and we fought till the last moment, even if we lost."
Afghanistan's spinners halted South Africa's strong start of 64-0 after Mujeeb Ur Rahman got skipper Temba Bavuma for 23 and fellow spinner Mohammad Nabi trapped Quinton de Kock lbw on 41.
But the Proteas got their chase back on track in a third-wicket stand of 50 only for leg-spinner Rashid Khan to claim the wicket of Aiden Markram for 25.
South Africa looked worried when Rashid bowled Heinrich Klaasen for 10 but Van der Dussen anchored an unbeaten 65-run stand with Andile Phehlukwayo, who hit the winning six in an unbeaten 39.
Earlier Afghanistan slumped to 116-6 before Azmatullah hit his ODI best score to lift the team to a competitive total.
Gerald Coetzee took four wickets while spinner Keshav Maharaj returned impressive figures of 2-25.
Wicketkeeper De Kock claimed six dismissals to equal the World Cup record held by Australia's Adam Gilchrist and Pakistan's Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Openers Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Ibrahim Zadran started well before Maharaj struck with his first ball to have Gurbaz caught for 25.
Coetzee dismissed Ibrahim in the next over to slow the batting surge and Afghanistan slipped from 41-0 to 45-3 when Maharaj had Shahidi caught behind.
Afghanistan lost three more quick wickets but Azmatullah held firm to play out the innings.