Petar Segrt joyfully celebrated as Tajikistan secured a spot in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 quarter-finals with a 5-3 penalty shootout win on Sunday.
Although the Round of 16 tie concluded with a 1-1 score after 120 minutes, Tajikistan emerged as deserving winners. They had ample chances to seal the game during regulation time but failed to capitalize on numerous opportunities.
Segrt, however, expressed no concern when the tie went to penalties at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium. Tajikistan is set to face either Iraq or Jordan in the quarter-finals on Friday.
Segrt said: “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.
“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 will face either Iraq or Jordan in quarter-finals
After vowing earlier to pull out all stops to extend their dream run, Segrt commended his charges, praising the focus they exhibited after the setback of losing the lead in the 95th minute.
Segrt added: “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.”