(MENAFN- The Peninsula)
#Asian Cup Qatar 2023 The Peninsula
Doha, Qatar: Petar Segrt made no attempt to hide his delight after debutants Tajikistan secured a place in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 quarter-finals with a 5-3 penalty shootout win over the United Arab Emirates on Sunday.
While the Round of 16 tie ended 1-1 at the end of 120 minutes, Tajikistan were worthy winners and should have really put the game to bed in regulation time but squandered numerous opportunities, however, said he hadn't been worried when the tie went to penalties at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium with Tajikistan to face either Iraq or Jordan in the quarter-finals on Friday.
“Let's not forget I am Croatian and if there is one thing we know, it's to convert penalties, so we practised spot-kicks in our training before the match. While (goalkeeper Rustam) Yatimov's performance was the best of the night, I also believe there is an element of luck when it comes to shootouts,” said Segrt.
“A place in the last eight is huge, and I don't think a single person in Tajikistan will get a wink of sleep after so much excitement.”
Segrt, who had earlier vowed to pull out all stops to keep their dream run going for a little longer, showered praises on his charges, hailing the focus they displayed after the setback of losing the lead in the 95th minute.“I could sense the morale was dripping after UAE scored and I told them what I have always believed in - if you fall down, brush yourself and get back up again. I told them this was no time to break down and give up, and they proceeded to show real character,” he said.
“We started the competition as newcomers but our determination has brought us this far. We have seen what a team like Morocco did here in Qatar (in the FIFA World Cup 2022), and if my fairytale continues in the same way, I am not complaining.
“But my biggest win has been the unity that now exists in the team, as nothing is more important to me than harmony among teammates.”
UAE head coach Paulo Bento, while acknowledging Tajikistan as the better team on the night, lamented the loss of key midfielder Abdalla Ramadan early in the first half, saying the situation played a vital role in the downward trajectory of the Emiratis' performance.
“The match was exactly how I had predicted it would be – difficult. Ramadan is a major part of my gameplan as his presence allowed the team to effectively build the game and take control, which we simply couldn't do in the second half as without him, the centre backs had to take on a lot more load,” said the Portuguese.
“We made several mistakes which you can't afford in a competition of this stature and sure enough, we were punished for it.
Tajikistan, on the other hand, displayed excellent organisation and mobility, and took advantage of our mistakes and so, I congratulate them on their achievement.”
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