Asian Cup 2023
January 16 – Ahead of their second group game with hosts Qatar, Tajikistan and their coach Petar Segrt are dreaming of making history at the Asian Cup, by scoring their first-ever goal and taking another step toward qualification for the last 16.
On the back of a remarkable, goalless draw with China courtesy of great commitment, the Asian Cup debutants want to confirm they are no pushovers when they take on The Maroons on Wednesday, targeting at least a point that would allow Tajikistan to keep dreaming of an unhoped-for ticket to the knockout stages.
“We respect Qatar as the champions and great hosts but for at least 90 minutes tomorrow, we must put that aside,” said the flamboyant Segrt (pictured).
“We will try to achieve a good result and make a good impression, to try to get one or three points. We cannot go into a game to get one point, we will try our best. More important is how we behave and how we play our football. Against China, it was working because we played with great self-confidence.”
The last time the two sides met Tajikistan prevailed 2-1 in 2012, but they remain the underdogs against the defending champions who swept aside Lebanon in the tournament’s curtain raiser and are on a stretch of eight matches unbeaten in the Asian Cup.
“It’s not the character of the Tajikistan people to play defensive,” continued Segrt. “So we will try to play our football but we must also respect that Qatar are stronger than China and they will also have their supporters behind them. Before we went into the first game, the players were thinking that they were happy to be here but after the performance we showed, they are now starting to think that they have a chance.”
In the other Group A game, Lebanon and China will seek to revitalize their campaigns after disappointing starts.
Lebanese manager Miodrag Radulovic pointed to opening-stage nerves as the cause of his side’s 3-0 capitulation at the hands of Qatar.
“Playing in the opening match of the Asian Cup was overwhelming for the team and it caused us to make some silly mistakes and give opportunities to the opposition, but that is history now and the competition begins for us with the second match,” admitted Radulovic.
Lebanon will once against be the underdogs as they face Aleksander Jankovic’s China at the Al Thumama Stadium. In five matches, they have never beaten the Chinese.
“China PR are a very balanced team with a lot of experienced players, and we have a lot of respect for them,” said Radulovic. “Against such a team, I want to ensure an even rhythm throughout the game which might entail resting some players and mixing the squad up a bit.”
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Tajikistan target last 16 slot but face resurgent Qatar; Lebanon and China have points to prove – Inside World Football
Asian Cup 2023