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Dobrovolski gets Moldova moving

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Moldova were, together with Korea DPR, the highest climbers on July's edition of the FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, having moved up 22 spots to 84th - their best position this year.

This recent rise is mainly thanks to positive results in a pair of friendlies in June. Igor Dobrovolski's men managed to recover a two-goal deficit to share four goals with Belarus, before going one better and defeating Georgia 2-1 away.

Unfortunately for the Moldovans, this improvement came too late for them to qualify for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™. Home and away losses to Switzerland in March and April, both by a 2-0 scoreline, put an end to any dreams of a maiden participation in a major tournament.

Moldova are currently bottom of Group 2 in European Zone qualifying, behind Greece and Switzerland, who both have 13 points, Latvia, on ten, and Israel, a futher point back. The Moldovans have one point from six games, the result of a goalless draw in Luxemburg, who have four points to their name.

The country became members of FIFA in 1994 and entered FIFA World Cup qualifying two years later, albeit without success. They managed two goals but finished last in their preliminary group for France 1998 with eight defeats in as many matches. Four years later, the team had already made progress, managing three draws and a win over Azerbaijan.

Since then they have gone from strength to strength in their attempts to qualify for a major tournament. Although it was not enough to see them through to Portugal, the eastern Europeans managed wins over Austria and Belarus in the qualifiers for UEFA EURO 2004. In the race for a place at Germany 2006, they finished last in their group, but during the qualifying phase of EURO 2008 they made the rest of the world sit up and take notice, recording victories in both Bosnia and Herzegovina and Malta, and holding Turkey to a 1-1 draw on home soil.

Improving infrastructure
Dobrovolski has been one of the driving forces behind the upturn in Moldova's fortunes. The 41-year-old, a Ukraine-born former USSR winger who played for the likes of Marseille, Atletico Madrid and Sampdoria, has been in charge of the team for two years now. Both he and team captain Serghei Lascencov are hopeful of achieving better results in the forthcoming qualifiers for EURO 2012.

While Moldova are still waiting for success on the field, they have made incredible progress in terms of infrastructure recently. Since 1998, the country has benefited from the support of FIFA and UEFA to build new FA headquarters, artificial pitches and modern training centres among other investments.

At the beginning of May, a FIFA delegation including FIFA President Joseph S. Blatter visited the newly-built technical centre in the capital, Chisinau. "It is a real pleasure for me to come back here, six years after I laid the cornerstone for this technical centre," said Blatter upon his arrival.

"The Moldovan Football Federation and FIFA can be proud of their involvement in a project like this. When I first took on my functions as FIFA President 11 years ago, one of the goals that I set myself was to give each member association a home of football. When I see today the kind of commitment and motivation that these projects are generating, I am filled with joy and pride."

The foundation is, therefore, in place for a successful future, and with a squad that has an average age of only 25, it is surely only a question of time before Moldova qualifies for a European Championship or a FIFA World Cup.

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