BY ZULHILMI ZAINAL Follow on Twitter
Tajikistan continued their dream run in the 2018 AFC U-16 Championship, when they defeated the more-fancied Korea Republic 7-6 on penalties, in their semi-final encounter on Thursday.
The match that was held at the Petaling Jaya City Council Stadium, Malaysia, had earlier ended tied at 1-1 at the 90 minute mark.
They had earlier defeated DPR Korea in the quarter-final stage, also on penalties.
In the post-match press conference, Tajikistan head coach Zaynidin Rakhimov told through an interpreter that he knew that his charges were going to win when they got to the penalty shootout.
"After opening the scoring we wanted to keep the lead, but the opponents still got the equaliser. And after that they guarded our number nine (forward Rustam Soirov) closely.
"But my boys had practised their penalty shootout in training, and I was sure that they were going to win the penalties," he remarked.
Speaking on the final match, against another tournament favourites Japan, this Sunday at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Kuala Lumpur, Zaynidin said that he is expecting to make a number of changes to his starting line-up.
"We may have suspensions for the final, while our number 14 (Sharifbek Rahmatov) seems to be injured. The boys have been playing for two weeks now, so there is a chance that we'll make line-up changes.
"And when we last played Japan, in the group stage, which ended goalless, I promised the Japan head coach that we'll meet them in the final. Here we are," said Zaynidin.
The final match will kick off at 8.45 pm Malaysian time on Sunday.
Read more on the tournament.
Also follow Goal Malaysia 's Instagram account!
Tajikistan had a rough start to their 2018 AFC U-16 Championship campaign, but completed a stunning turnaround to defeat DPR Korea on penalties in the quarter-finals, to reach the semis and the 2019 U-17 World Cup. Tajikistan bermula longlai dalam Kejohanan AFC B-16 2018, tetapi bangkit dan mara ke peringkat separuh akhir untuk layak ke Piala Dunia B-17 2019, selepas menumpaskan Korea Utara menerusi sepakan penalti di peringkat suku akhir!