AFC Challenge Cup 2012: Team Profile – Tajikistan

As the 2012 Challenge Cup approaches, profiles the 8 contenders who want a direct spot into the 2015 Asian Cup. In this edition, we focus on Tajikistan

                                                Quick Facts

                       Tajikistan in 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifying match against Japan


GROUP : B (along with India, Philippines and DPR Korea)

ADMINISTRATIVE BODY: Tajikistan National Football Federation


NICKNAME: The Persian Lions, The Crown

Last Match Played: vs DPR Korea (February 29, 2012)


                                History And Team Highlights

                                       Tajikistan in 2008 Challenge Cup

In 1994, Tajikistan National Football Federation was admitted to FIFA for  the first time after the split of Soviet Union. Tajikistan's home ground is Pamir Stadium in Dushanbe. The national association regularly takes part  in competitions organised by FIFA and the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) at senior and youth level. However, the country has not yet enjoyed any  real success, other than winning the Challenge Cup final in 2006. Funds are limited for the national team and costs for travel and  accommodation for international matches are prohibitively high, thus it is  extremely difficult for their national teams to gain experience, apart from in official competitions.

Tajikistan national football team success came in 1993, when it came  third in ECO Cup, and also performed well in the 1998 Asian Games  where they reached the second round.
The first international game Tajikistan played was a 2-2 draw against Uzbekistan in Dushanbe on 17th June 1992. Though the national team had to wait another 2 years to play their first  official game on April 11, 1994 in Tashkent as part of a regional  tournament. 

Ever since their entry into the football scene, Tajikistan have never qualified for a FIFA World Cup. They did not enter the World Cup qualifying competition until the France 1998 edition, recording four victories in their preliminary group stage including a 5–0 triumph over  Turkmenistan, and losing only to China, which placed them second behind their eastern neighbours but out of the competition.

In a three-team qualifying section for Korea/Japan 2002, they had a record 16–0 win over Guam before losing 2–0 to Iran. After beating Bangladesh 4–0 on aggregate in the preliminary round of qualifiers for Germany 2006, they held Asian Cup semi-finalists and eventual group winners Bahrain to a goalless draw on 31 March 2004.

                                 History In The Challenge Cup

               Scuffle between DPR Korea and Tajikistan in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup

Tajikistan were worthy champions of the inaugural AFC Challenge Cup held in Bangladesh in 2006. That win was probably their biggest achievment at the international and Asian level. The 2008 Challenge Cup hosted by India saw the home side beat Tajikistan in an epic final. That tournament also saw Tajikistan involved in a controversial encounter with DPR Korea. And finally after finishing 1st in the inaugral edition and runner-up in the 2nd edition, Tajikistan finished 3rd in the third edition of the Challenge Cup in Sri Lanka in 2010! They have totally played 16 matches in this tournament, winning 10, and scoring 32 goals in the process.  

                              Player To Watch Out For

Yusuf Rabiev: The forward is the all-time top goal scorer for Tajikistan. Rabiev was part of the successful 2006 Challenge Cup. He scored four goals in the tournament including a brace against Kyrgyzstan in the semi-final. Earlier he had played at the 2006 World Cup quaifiers, however Tajikistan failed to get beyond the first stage. During the Qualification for the 2008 Challenge Cup he helped Tajikistan to edge Philippines and qualify for the final tournament, were he scored a hat-trick against Afghanistan as his team won 4–0. A dangerous attacker all defenses will have to keep a keen eye on. Though he is ageing, the experience he possesses is the key characteristic.

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