DUSHANBE, August 7, 2008, Asia-Plus  -- Tajikistan is meeting DPR Korea in this year''s Asian Football Confederation’s (AFC) Challenge Cup semi-finals today.  

We will recall that Tajikistan defeated Afghanistan 3-0 on August 3, and the victory sent the defending champions through to the semi-final as runners-up behind India, who beat Turkmenistan 2-1 in the group’s other match.  Tajik soccer players played their first game with Turkmenistan on July 30 -- 0-0.  The second game with hosts that was held on August 1 also ended in a draw – 1-1.  

In the meantime, Tajikistan coach Pulod Qodirov pointed to striker Yusuf Rabiyev as the key to his side’s chances of victory when they meet DPR Korea, according to the AFC official website.  

Rabiyev has scored four goals so far in the tournament having also played a major part in Tajikistan''s triumph in 2006 when he netted four times and Qodirov is counting on the 29-year-old to once again fire them to glory.

"He is our main striker and we hope that he can take us to the final of the competition once again," said Qodirov.  "He is a good striker and he has shown great development in the previous two years and he is now more experienced than before."

Qodirov also underlined he feels the AFC Challenge Cup is a much tougher prospect now than when they won it two years ago in Bangladesh.  "Of all the teams that are in the semi-finals, we are the only team that played in 2006 semi-finals," he added.  "This shows that the competition has developed and it has become stronger.

"All the teams that are in the semi-finals are going to give their best to reach the final. The best team will prevail and hopefully we can make it to the final once again."

The 2008 AFC Challenge Cup football tournament is hosted by India from July 30 to August 10, 2008.  The winners of the 2008 and 2010 competitions will qualify for the Asian Cup 2011.  This competition is exclusive to the lower ranking Asian nations.  However, India and Bangladesh have again been invited for the 2008 tournament from the middle tier of nations, along with North Korea and Laos.