In their debut appearance in Asia's qualifying for the 1998 FIFA World Cup™, Tajikistan came close to toppling group favourites China PR only to finish narrowly behind the east Asians and miss out on the second phase. Despite the promising start, Tajikistan have since failed to improve on that showing and have never made it through to the continent's qualifying finals. Four years ago the Central Asians lost to Singapore to stumble at the opening hurdle.
The current crop
Having won the 2006 AFC Challenge Cup, the former Soviet republic entered this March's qualifying for the 2012 edition seeking a continental encore. They got off to a perfect start with a solitary-goal victory over neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, before firing three unanswered goals past Cambodia. A goalless draw with Maldives saw Tajikistan progress to the Asian finals in second and displaying solid form. Despite losing to Syria 6-1 on aggregate in Asia’s second qualifying round for Brazil 2014, the Central Asians were granted progression at the expense of the opponents, who have been disqualified by FIFA due to fielding an ineligible player in both legs.
The key players
Since taking over in 2008, Pulod Kodirov has spent the past three years building for the future, with a host of young talents breaking into the team. Leading the charge is 23-year-old midfielder Ibrahim Rabimov, while 20-year-old Davronjon Ergashev shores up the defence. But in the absence of a proven goalscorer, veteran striker Numonjon Hakimov may return to enhance firepower.
Coach: Pulod Kodirov
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 (Round of 16)
Former stars: Arsen Avakov, Alier Ashurmamadov, Tokhirjon Muminov