FIFA Ranking: 120
Last match played: China 1-0 Tajikistan (11 June 2019)
Coach: Usmon Toshev
In India, Tajikistan is best remembered for being defeated 4-1 in the final of the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup in New Delhi, leading the path for the Blue Tigers to qualify for the 2011 Asian Cup, their first appearance since 1984.
A decade on, the Pamirians are yet to create much of an impact as compared to their Central Asian neighbours like Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. Disappointment in the run-up to 2019 Asian Cup qualifying has seen a managerial merry-go-round. Former Soviet Union-born Uzbek national Usmon Toshev is the fourth head coach in as many years.
With the country formed after the fall of USSR, Tajikistan football was born in 1992. They have never qualified for the Asian Cup but their biggest achievement till date is winning the inaugural 2006 AFC Challenge Cup in Bangladesh.
Tajikistan has never broken into double digits in the FIFA Rankings. The Persian Lions have a chance to impress in the Intercontinental Cup as a lead up to the inaugural Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) Championship, which will be held later this year in Uzbekistan.
Usmon Toshev was installed as the national team coach in November 2018 after his predecessor Alisher Tuhtayev's short reign. Earlier in 2018, after failing to qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup from a group consisting of the Philippines, Yemen and Nepal, Khakim Fuzailov resigned.
The tumultuous recent past has forced Toshev to build a new team. He is yet to taste success in the five games he has been in charge. Twin losses to Oman followed by a 5-0 thrashing at the hands of Bahrain in December 2018 meant Toshev's side got off on the wrong foot.
A 1-1 draw against Afghanistan preceded a narrow 1-0 loss away to China in the June 2019 international window. Now, Toshev comes to India with a relatively young side. Players like Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev (66 caps, 9 goals) and Manuchekhr Dzhalilov (24 caps, 15 goals) are missing from the squad.
Parvizdzhon Umarbaev, the 24-year-old midfielder who plies his trade in the Bulgarian top division club Lokomotiv Plovdiv is also missing from the traveling party. Eleven of the 21 players in the squad are from Istiklol, the domestic champions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sheriddin Boboev: The 20-year-old forward is the future hope of Tajikistan. As the team moves away from Manuchekhr Dzhalilov, the Istiklol striker has been entrusted to repliacte his club form in national colours. He scored 16 goals across all competitions last calendar year and already has 7 to his name this year.
Siyovush Asrorov: After five successful years at Istiklol, the 26-year-old centre-back has made a move to Malaysian Super League club PKNP FC in 2019. The 6'2'' defender is one of the more experienced members of Toshev's squad with 35 caps to his name.
Goalkeepers: Rustam Yatimov (FC Istiklol), Shokhrukh Kirgizboev (Barki Tajik Dushanbe);
Defenders: Akhtam Nazarov, Iskandar Dzhalilov, Zoir Juraboev, Tabrezi Davlatmir (all FC Istiklol), Alisher Barotov (FC Khatlon), Siyovush Asrorov (PKNP FC);
Midfielders: Amirbek Juraboev, Ehson Panjshanbe, Muhammadjon Rakhimov (all FC Istiklol), Karomatullo Saidov (FC Khatlon), Okabek Karimov, Ilhomjon Barotov (both FK Istaravshan), Daler Yodgorov, Sharafdzhon Solehov (both CSKA Pamir Dushanbe), Nozim Babadzhanov (Regar-TadAZ);
Forwards: Sheriddin Boboev, Shahrom Samiyev, Komron Tursunov (all FC Istiklol), Tokhir Malodoustov (Barki Tajik Dushanbe).