Having failed to make an impact on the international stage since becoming an Asian Football Association (AFC) member, progression to the FIFA U-17 World Cup Korea 2007 came as a much-needed boost for Tajikistan.

Before this ground-breaking success the former Soviet republic had never reached the finals of a major continental or world tournament. However, during the Asian qualifying campaign to Korea 2007, Pulod Kodirov's side came from nowhere to sweep past the likes of Iran and Iraq and into the quarter-finals, where they stunned Korea Republic to book their place at the biennial youth event.

Given a rare chance to showcase their footballing potential to the watching world, the ambitious Kodirov will now attempt to mastermind the Central Asians' progression from a competitive group which also includes USA, Belgium and Tunisia. "We know this should not be an easy group but progression to the second round would be great for us," he said.

Following their qualification for Korea 2007 last September, Kodirov wasted no time in beginning preparations for Tajikistan's adventure. In order to help his charges reach a level where they can hold their own against the world's elite, the tactician ensured they would gain the experience of intensive competition.

In February, he led his team into the Turkmenbashi Cup in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. Tajikistan lost 3-1 to Ashgabat FC, with Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov scoring their solitary goal, but they then held Provincial Electrical Authority Thailand to a 1-1 draw courtesy of Komil Saidov's well-taken effort.

Thereafter, the U-17s have impressed on a domestic front, participating in the Tajikistani league as Dynamo Dushanbe FC. Kodirov's youngster have lived up to expectations and, at present, they sit in seventh position midway through the competition.

Tukhtasunov hope
Tajikistan will open their FIFA U-17 World Cup campaign against USA in Changwon on 20 August, and while preparations have gone well during their ongoing two-week training camp in Turkey, they will be hoping star striker Davrondzhon Tukhtasunov recovers his fitness and his form in time for Korea.

The rangy forward scored four times, including a brace against Iran, in qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup. However, he failed to keep this prolific form due to injury and has scored only four goals for Dynamo Dushanbe in league competition.

With their preparation period reaching its conclusion, Kodirov has his fingers crossed that the highly-rated marksman will be fit to face USA. "He is an integral part of the team and is important for us. I hope he can fully recover before the tournament kicks off," the Tajikistan coach concluded.