Ahmedabad: Tajikistan national team head coach Usmon Toshev believes his side have been given a challenging but comfortable FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying draw.
The Central Asian outfit were drawn against continental heavyweights Japan and neighbours Kyrgyz Republic as well as Myanmar and Mongolia in a fascinating Group F, which begins on September 5.
Toshev - whose team are in India preparing for Friday’s Intercontinental Cup final against DPR Korea - said he was at peace with Tajikistan’s group, which he rates as an even one.
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“It was an interesting draw which we watched nervously,” he said from Ahmedabad. “Our group is nice and comfortable. There are nice and equal teams and we will try to give our maximum in all of the games and achieve a positive result.
“I think, in any case, there are no weak teams, and every team will be trying to go to the next stage so we will be preparing too, and now we know who we will play with.
“I think that this final game (in India) will serve as preparation for our first game against Kyrgyz Republic. I think it’s a good group.”
Tajikistan have largely impressed so far in the Intercontinental Cup, coming from two goals behind to beat hosts India 4-2, and edging Syria 2-0 before falling to a single-goal defeat to DPR Korea on Monday.
Excellent results at international youth level coupled with emerging FC Istiklol youngsters like Panshanbe Ehsoni, Sheriddin Boboev and Shahrom Shamiev point to a bright future for the team currently ranked 120th in the world, but the nation’s progress will be firmly tested against Japan; an Asian powerhouse with six successive World Cup appearances to their name.
Toshev acknowledged the Samurai Blue’s quality, but knows they will not be the only team Tajikistan will need to be well prepared for.
“We know that Japan are very strong and one of the best among the national teams of our continent,” said the 53-year-old, who represented Uzbekistan twice as a player in the 90s.
“The other teams are also good, but we will search and analyse their records in order to once again be convinced.
“All of the teams will try to play well, and it will be interesting for us to compete with them and to try to beat them.”
Under former coach Mubin Ergahev, Tajikistan struggled in their attempt to qualify for Russia 2018, winning just one of eight matches and losing at home to regional rivals Kyrgyz Republic, who they will meet again on September 5.
Defender Akhtam Nazarov, who has won three Tajik League titles for Istiklol since that campaign ended and now captains the national team, believes Tajikistan will be ready this time around.
“The group has very good teams, especially Japan,” said Nazarov, who has now taken his tally of domestic titles to five.
“There will be a lot of work for us and very good work is already underway here (in India). We will be prepared for the upcoming games in September.
“All of the teams are good: Japan are strong, Kyrgyz Republic are strong, and we are not bad either.”
Photos: All India Football Federation
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