Azerbaijan have yet to make their mark on international football, though there are signs that the side can compete with the best teams on given days. But, so far the nation that lies on the west side of the Caspian Sea have failed to reach a single FIFA World Cup™ or European Championship finals. They finished bottom of their Korea/Japan 2002 qualifying group - the one bright point being a 2-0 victory over Slovakia.
Four years on and there was another last-place finish on the road to Germany 2006 but it wasn't all doom and gloom as they chalked up some respectable results, drawing three home games with Wales (1-1) and Northern Ireland and Austria (both 0-0). At home to England there was another respectable performance from the team who were playing above themselves under the tutelage of the legendary Brazilian Carlos Alberto Torres. England, the group winners, had to make do with a solitary Michael Owen goal for their 1-0 win.
A lack of firepower, however, signposted where the Azeris problems lay. In the ten fixtures they scored just once, Rashad Sadigov's equaliser in that opening fixture with Wales.
The qualifiers for France 1998 had set the pattern of bottom-place finishes for Azerbaijan though they did record a shock 1-0 triumph over Switzerland. Their most prominent success on the international stage was a victory over Serbia and Montenegro in the UEFA EURO 2004 qualifiers. That was only their second triumph in a EURO qualifier, the first coming in 1999 with a 4-0 win over Liechtenstein.
Now under the guidance of former Germany, Kuwait, Scotland and Nigeria coach Berti Vogts, Azerbaijan will be hoping to make more of an impression on the long and difficult road to South Africa 2010.