TAJIKISTAN – GREECE
january 8th, 2017; Saint Petersburg, St. Petersburg Sports and Concert Complex, 300 spectators
Best players: Ehsoni, Petrakis
Vitalii Levchenko, Head coach of team Tajikistan:
– Good morning! We were a little bit nervous, as it was our first match on the tournament. The nervousness we had to overcome made us unstable, however, we held the initiative during the first minutes after the kick-off. After 20 minutes of the first half, opposing team took possession of the ball, which led to several scoring chances in front of our goals. But we managed to shift game balance after the halftime: players calmed down and showed higher quality of play. It may be said that luck was on our side, but from my perspective, the result is as expected.
– In your opinion, what caused the nervousness and instability?
– It’s January, the players are just gathering, and all of them are in different physical conditions.
– Team Tajikistan is a frequent guest on football tournaments in Saint-Petersburg and it tends to show vivid performance during the matches. But you often face problems, such as low quality of goalkeepers as stated by coaches in a previous year’s interview. Which drawbacks in the team preparation can you mention this year?
– Of course, we have lots of problems, but I don’t see any purpose in speaking about them. There are certain differences in mentality, as the boys of the new generation only begin playing with each other. Yet, I appreciate the mutual understanding between the team and the coaching staff. The Granatkin Memorial is a great opportunity to prepare for the Asian Cup, that will take place in October.
– What’s your goal for the tournament?
– Clearly, each coach’s dream is to have lots of players for rotation. But Tajikistan is not that big as Greece or Russia and does not have enough human resources. The players you saw today is a basis of the team, that will deal with challenges of this tournament, but we also have a small pool of players, who can show their skills and make their way up.
Ioannis Gkoumas, Head coach of team Greece:
– Good morning! In my judgment, we seemed more preferable to win during the first half, as we had two scoring chances, but we did not benefit from them. Conceding a goal in the second half, we lost our concentration, reduced the quantity of our attacks, passed the initiative to the opponent. I see the reason why it happened – the team is new, but it’s not that crucial. I believe that we will bind together more closely and progress quickly.
– You were forced to make a substitution in the very beginning of the match. How did this fact affect the game?
– All players have the same level of training, and we have options for changes. Each substitute will have chances to prove that he has a well-deserved right to represent the national team.
– Two years ago you brought the National Team here with lineup that differs from the current. Is it possible to compare the two teams?
– I believe that it is too early to speak about comparison. It’s only the first day of the tournament. The team is only gathering its strength.
– Lots of observers considered Greece as a favorite. The players looked a bit relaxed at the beginning of the match. Was it only external impression?
– We want to win every game. And today was not an exception. Again, I underline that players only recently met each other. Such unpleasant surprise as a loss will not be a tragedy. It’s only a start.