Independence Stadium, Khunjand
17.30 IST, 14th August 2013

Indian Football team ranked 145th in the world takes on the Tajikistan National team ranked 114th in an international friendly which is the first match for both the teams after the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers. Both India and Tajikistan were favorites to qualify from their respective groups but were eliminated after finishing second in their groups and hence this friendly is of extreme importance to both countries.

Team News and Tactical Brief


Nicknamed as The Persian Lions, Tajikistan team has been preparing hard for the friendly under the new coach Mukhsin Mukhamadiev, who has replaced Nikola Kavazović after the debacle in the AFC Challenge qualifiers. Tajikistan are taking the match very seriously and have had a camp in the run up to the friendly.

37 year old veteran keeper Alisher Tuychiev is likely to start under the goal once again for the home team. 34 year old  Rustam Rizoev is also another possible option for Mukhamadiev. Eraj Rajabov is expected to start in the heart of Tajikistan midfield and at just 22 years of age, he has 24 caps to his name.  He is expected to be joined in the four man defense by Daler Tukhtasunov, Akhtam Nazarov and Khasan Rustamov.

Skipper Makhmudov will hold the key for Tajikistan in the midfield

Captain Khurshed Mahmudov will dictate play from the center of the park for the home team and he will be up against the India duo of Mehtab Hossain and Lenny Rodriguez. He has scored twice this year with his first goal coming against Pakistan in AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers and the second against Afghanistan in a practice game. 23 year old highly rated midfielder Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev , who was a part of the Tajikistan U-17  team that played in the 2017 World Cup,  will start on the right flank and will look to trouble the Indian defenders. Infact Fatkhuloev scored his first goal against India. Dilshod Vasiev, who started his club career in Armenia, is the main source of creativity in the team and is likely to be deployed as a attacking midfielder and Jakhongir Jalilov as left midfielder.

Tajikistan are likely to line-up with a 4-4-2 formation with Akhtam Khamroqulov expected to lead the front-line. 25 year old Khamroqulov scored the opening goal for Tajikistan when the two sides last met in 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. Kamil Saidov is expected to start alongside Khamroqulov while the immensely talented Davronjon Tukhtasunov , another player from the 2007 U-17 World Cup playing squad is also expected to be introduced later in the game. The 4-4-2 formation swiftly changes to a 4-3-3 formation while attacking with Dilshod Vasiev taking the role of a third striker

 The 23 member Tajikistan squad stays as follows

Goalkeepers : Alisher Tuychiev, Rustam Rizoev, Abdulaziz Makhkamov

Defenders : Sokhib Suvonkulov, Eraj Rajabov, Akhtam Nazarov, Daler Tukhtasunov, Khasan Rustamov, Manuchekhr Akhmadov, Siyovakhsh Asrorov

Midfielders : Jamshed Ismailov, Dilshod Vasiev, Ibrahim Rabimov, Jakhongir Jalilov, Khurshed Mahmudov [C], Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev, Mahmadali Sodikov, Abdusamad Khojiboev

Forwards : Akhtam Khamroqulov, Kamil Saidov, Jahongir Ergashev, Davronjon Tukhtasunov

Possible Starting XI (4-4-2): Alisher Tuychiev; Khasan Rustamov, Daler Tukhtasunov, Eraj Rajabov, Akhtam Nazarov; Jakhongir Jalilov, Dilshod Vasiev, Khurshed Mahmudov, Fatkhullo Fatkhuloev; Akhtam Khamroqulov, Kamil Saidov

Probable Starting LineUp


Chief coach Wim Koevermans raised eye brows when he dropped Subrata Pal and Syed Rahim Nabi , two of the senior players, from the 20 member squad for the friendly primarily due to the lack of practice for the duo who missed the pre-season having signed for IMG Reliance league

Karanjit Singh and Sandip Nandy were the two best keepers in the I-League last season but with age on his side, Salgaocar keeper Karanjit is expected to start in this match.  The Punjabi lad will look to put in a strong performance and make a case for the first choice keeper once Subrata Pal returns. Dempo ‘s Subhasish Roychowdhury is the third keeper in the team.

Arnab Mondal, arguably the best center defender in the nation at the moment, is likely to lead the Indian defense. Mondal missed the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers due to an injury and his presence was dearly missed. Gouramangi Singh is expected to partner him in the center of the India defense and together the duo will have to keep the tall Tajak strikers in check. Despite having an average season with Prayag last season, Gouramangi is the most experienced defender in India at the moment and also offers an option from the set-pieces. Denzil Franco was a revelation for Churchill Brothers last season and is likely to occupy the right-back slot. Young United Sikkim defender Sandesh Jhingan has been drafted into the team at the last moment instead of injured Gurjinder Kumar however it is likely that Raju Gaikwad would start on the left back. Nirmal Chettri is the other two defender in the team.

Francis Fernandes and Clifford Miranda are likely to start on the right and the left flank respectively. The Blue Tigers have always preferred to attack from the flanks and once again Francis and Clifford will have the responsibility of  delivering pin-point crosses to skipper Sunil Chhetri in the middle. East Bengal skipper Mehtab Hossain will anchor the midfield and is likely to be supported by Lenny Rodriguez. The Churchill Brother midfielder has won accolades for his performances last season and comes into the match on a high after scoring the match-winning goal against Dempo in the Goa Pro League. Lalrindika Ralte has made a comeback to the squad on back of impressive performances last season and is likely to be seen in action in the second half of the game.

Sunil Chhetri Will Hold The Key For India Once Again

It is highly unlikely that Koevermans will alter his preferred 4-4-1-1 formation and either of Jewel Raja or Arata Izumi will start in the hole behind the lone striker who is expected to be India skipper Sunil Chhetri. Chhetri is expected to be double-marked in the match which means the midfielders and the supporting striker will have to get into scoring positions and assist the skipper. Dawson Fernandes who has been rewarded for his impressive I-League performances, is also expected to get a look in as the coach prepares for SAFF Cup. Robin Singh is the third striker who has traveled with the team to Tajikistan.

Possible Starting XI (4-4-1-1): Karanjit Singh; Raju Gaikwad, Gouramangi Singh, Arnab Mondal, Denzil Franco; Clifford Miranda, Mehtab Hussain, Lenny Rodriguez, Francis Fernandes; Jewel Raja; Sunil Chhetri

Player To Watch Out For

Khurshed Mahmudov(Tajikistan)

The 31 year old experienced Tajikistan skipper is arguably the most vital cog in his team’s lineup and will look to lead from the front in this match. His vision and passing in the heart of Tajikistan midfield is essential for the team considering the fact that the team is undergoing a transition phase. He also has a track record of scoring some crucial goals which make him the player to watch out for.

Sunil Chhetri (India)

The Indian skipper is the man to watch out for whenever Team India plays and after a not so impressive showing in the AFC Challenge Cup qualifiers, the Bengaluru FC striker would be keen to prove a point against a relatively inexperienced Tajikistan defense. With 37 goals in 66 matches for the national team , the diminutive striker will draw inspiration from the hat-trick he scored against the same opponents in the 2008 AFC Challenge Cup.


Tajikistan 1-1 India

Tajikistan are likely to prove a tough nut to crack specially given the fact that they are playing at home. However India will be motivated given that this is the only friendly that they play before beginning their SAFF Cup defense  and are expected to put up a brave show. TheHardTackle expects the match to end in a 1-1 stalemate.

Blast From The Past