DUSHANBE, August 8, 2008, Asia-Plus  -- Tajikistan will bid to defend their AFC Challenge Cup title against hosts India on Sunday after a recording a 1-0 victory over DPR Korea at the Gachibowli Stadium yesterday.   

Jumakhon Muhiddinov netted the only goal six minutes before half-time to allow Tajikistan the opportunity to replicate their success of 2006.

DPR Korea, who were reduced to nine men in the closing stages as captain Nam Chol Pak and Choe Myong Ho were both shown straight red cards, will now take on Myanmar in a play-off for third place on Sunday.

According to the AFC official website, Tajikistan coach Pulod Qodirov believes his Tajikistan side were deserved semi-final winners after a 1-0 triumph over DPR Korea earned the defending champions a place in Sunday’s final.  "There is no luck in this game. We have qualified for the final, so there isn''t any luck there," said Qodirov.

The start of the match was delayed by 30 minutes as the organizers hoped incessant rain would ease and allow the ground conditions to improve.  But the rain continued throughout the match lending to difficult conditions.

"The conditions were not ideal for playing this match and we have no experience of playing in these conditions,” added Qodirov.  "Had it rained like this during our practice session at least, we would have had a specific game plan in mind. But it didn''t and we had no plan in mind when we took the field.

On the AFC Challenge Cup tournament, Qodirov 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.