Tajikistan will play their last Asian Cup group game against Lebanon like a final as the tournament debutants seek their first win and first goal, coach Petar Segrt said on Sunday.
Tajikistan and Lebanon have one point each to sit third and fourth respectively, five points adrift of already-qualified leaders Qatar but only a point behind second-placed China.
They have a golden opportunity to earn direct qualification to the knockout stage with China facing defending champions Qatar, who have already sealed top spot.
The group winners and runners-up qualify for the last 16 along with the four best third-placed teams.
“I think that all Tajikistan people have stress every day. For us it is an honour to play these kinds of games. We are not stressed, we are relaxed, we want to win this game,” Segrt told reporters ahead of Monday’s clash.
“For us it is much more important to stay longer in this beautiful tournament. We want to go to the next round. We will have our final tomorrow, just like Lebanon.
“For us it’s the most important game in our history. But I hope after this game we will have the most important game in our history once again.”
Neither team haves managed to found the net yet and Croatian Segrt said there was no better opportunity to get on the board.
“We must score because now is the time to score … But to think too much about scoring goals at the moment is, for me as a coach, not a good point because I know my players,” he said.
“We have a good character, we have a good atmosphere and what is most important is luck, you must deserve it.
“So we must fight against a strong Lebanon team until the end. I hope we will get our chances.”
Lebanon coach Miodrag Radulovic also stressed that luck is a factor after seeing his team create numerous opportunities but ultimately fail to score in their first two games.
“Football rewards serious work and good behaviour. My players do that,” he said.
“The situation in our group is interesting – three teams haven’t scored. But we created chances against Qatar and China … Sometimes we need some luck, but I’m satisfied with how the team have played.
“We will be attacking from the start like we did against China. Hopefully the goal will come at the right time in a decisive game. I’m sure my team will score tomorrow, 100 per cent.”