Tajikistan, making their debut in the Asian Cup, created history by stunning the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in a penalty shootout, advancing to the quarter-finals alongside Australia. In a tense match in Doha that ended 1-1 after 120 minutes, Tajikistan won the shootout 5-3, with Alisher Shukurov calmly converting the decisive spot-kick.
Ranked 106th globally and participating in their first Asian Cup, Tajikistan’s victory sets them against either Jordan or the 2007 champions Iraq in the quarter-finals. Goalkeeper Rustam Yatimov’s crucial save from Caio Canedo’s penalty in the shootout played a pivotal role in Tajikistan’s historic win.
Coach Petar Segrt, describing his team as “the black horses of the tournament,” expressed his limitless expectations for the players, acknowledging their ability to surprise. Tajikistan initially took the lead with a 30th-minute header from Vakhdat Khanonov, but Khalifa Al-Hammadi’s 95th-minute equalizer forced extra time.
Khanonov dedicated his goal to his late brother, stating, “I dedicate this goal to my brother who passed away. He is not with us and can’t see my happiness.” Despite reaching the semi-finals in the last two Asian Cups, the UAE, ranked more than 40 places higher than Tajikistan, bowed out of the competition.
Tajikistan’s journey to the quarter-finals involved drawing with China and defeating Lebanon in the first round. The quarter-final opponents for Tajikistan will be determined after the match between Iraq and Jordan on Monday.
In another match, Australia secured a 4-0 victory over Indonesia, setting up a quarter-final clash against either South Korea or Saudi Arabia. Despite a spirited performance from Indonesia, Australia’s goals, including a deflected own goal and a diving header by Martin Boyle, proved decisive. The Socceroos, aiming for their second Asian Cup title, showcased defensive solidity with their third clean sheet in four matches.