New Tajikistan coach Mubin Ergashev says taking the game to Australia in its vital FIFA 2018 Russia World Cup Qualifier™ on September 8 would be "suicide" but also warns that anything can happen in front of a passionate home crowd in Dushanbe.
The Central Asians have just one point from their opening two games in Group E and while they know that they have to take points against the Socceroos when they come visiting for the first-ever meeting between the two nations, it is not going to be a gung-ho attacking performance from the host.
“To play too open against Australia would be suicide,” laughed Ergashev in a one-on-one conversation with www.socceroos.com.au
“Australia is the favourite to be the leader of the group and we will not go and play an open game.
"We are going to keep things tight, work really hard and see what happens. We will have the fans behind us, it will be a full stadium with a great atmosphere and anything can happen.”
“Can we win? We believe we can. We know that Australia are a really good team and are the champions of Asia but we are at home and will do our best to win.
"We are going to prepare as well as we can over the next three weeks and hope to get a good result.”
Ergashev took the role temporarily in July and Australia will be his first game on the international stage after he succeeded the departing Mukhsin Mukhamadiev.
A loss to Jordan in the opening game was followed by a 1-1 draw in Bangladesh, a point secured thanks to a late equaliser. With no game until Australia visits, Tajikistan can at least focus all energies on making life difficult for the continental champion.
He has also been in charge of FC Istikol since January 2014 and his first squad is likely to include a healthy proportion of players from Tajikistan's dominant club.
With plenty of time to prepare and players and coach highly familiar with each other, it promises to be a tough evening for the Socceroos.
Ergashev also sees the clash as a useful gauge to see where the team currently stands.
There has been investment in youth development and facilities in recent years but Tajikistan, with a population of less than nine million, still has some way to go to overcome even regional rivals such as Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan.
“Australia saw that Kyrgyzstan is a good team and it is developing really well and that is something we have to do too.
"Every team wants to finish second or first in the group but we must be realistic as we know that Jordan and Australia are the strongest teams in the group. We will take it game by game and then see what happens.”
He is also looking to see how his players deal with Tim Cahill, one of the biggest stars in Asian football.
“We know that Cahill is a very good player, everyone knows this,” Ergashev said.
“We have to stop him as much as we can but I am not going to say how we are going to do so,” he added with a laugh. “You will see how well we do this on the pitch when the game starts.”
In-form Vukovic earns Genk contract extension
Caltex Socceroos goalkeeper Danny Vukovic has been rewarded for his excellent form with a two-season contract extension at Belgian club KRC Genk. The 33-year-old's deal was due to expire at the end of the campaign but the Pro League leaders have taken up their option to extend
Aussies Abroad: Vukovic’s Genk beaten in battle of Belgium’s top two
Danny Vukovic’s Genk remain well clear on top of the table despite falling to a rare defeat in Belgium against Club Brugge overnight. In a meeting of the competition’s top two at the Jan Breydel Stadion, Genk were beaten the fired-up home side, going down 3-1. There was lit
Aussies Abroad: Ryan’s Brighton through to Quarter-Finals while Milligan, Giannou pick up strong results
There were a handful of Caltex Socceroos in action on Sunday morning (AEDT) while some key figures were rested as their clubs negotiated cup ties. Firstly to Europe where Mark Milligan played a full 90 at the heart of Hibernian’s midfield as they welcomed new manager Danny Hec
Aussies Abroad: Luongo gallant in Watford defeat
Caltex Socceroos midfielder Massimo Luongo can turn his attention to the EFLChampionship after QPR crashed out of the FA Cup on Saturday morning (AEDT). The 26-year-old played the full 90 minutes in QPR’s 1-0 loss to Watford at Loftus Road, in a tight game where each side cou