Thursday, September 27, 2012

Virtual national team

The Istiklol starting line-up that defeated Dordoi 2-0 earlier this week
Phnom Penh Crown's opponents tomorrow night, FC Istiklol, are relative new boys on the block when it comes to Tajikistan football. They were formed in 2007 and captured the Tajik League title in 2010 and 2011, disrupting the virtual monopoly of seven-times champions Regar-TadAZ, who had also won the AFC President's Cup on three occasions. Istiklol's Serbian coach Nikola Kavazovic (he has his own website, here) arrived in April and during his six months in Tajikistan he's also taken temporary charge of the Tajik national team, guiding them to a 2-1 win over Qatar. Of that squad, nine of the eleven Istiklol players who defeated Dordoi in their AFC President's Cup opener this week, winning 2-0, were included. Effectively, Istiklol are the country's national team. The only non-Tajik player in their starting line-up was Russian journeyman Aleksandr Kudriashov. Their other foreign player is Tajik-born German Alexander Frank who arrived via Uzbek football. Goalkeeper Alisher Tuychiev emerged as the hero of the hour with a penalty save and some fine stops in the win over Dordoi, even though they lost defender Sohib Savankulov to a red card. A goal in each half from Davronjon Ergashev and Makhmadali Sadykov was enough to grab the result they'd wanted against their next-door neighbours from Kyrgyzstan. They need a point from tomorrow's game against Crown to confirm their place in the final on 30 September. Meanwhile Dordoi will have their fingers and toes crossed that Crown can cause an upset and pull off an unlikely success, just 48 hours after Dordoi handed an 8-0 thrashing to the Cambodian club.

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