In the 24-team group stage of the tournament in Qatar, Tajikistan, the only debutant team, was considered the underdog and received little attention. However, they surprised everyone by making it to the knockout stage and achieving the upset of the tournament by defeating the United Arab Emirates in a penalty shootout in the last 16 on Sunday.

Coach 57-year-old Segrt, who has previously coached teams such as Georgia, Afghanistan, and Maldives, has become a national hero in Tajikistan in the past week. Despite his showmanship and shift of attention away from his young squad, his tactics have clearly worked.

Only conceding one goal against Qatar, a comeback win over Lebanon, and almost beating UAE in regular time before eliminating them in the shootout, showcases that Tajikistan is better than their ranking of 106 suggests.

Segrt believes that his team is among the top eight teams in Asia, and their next challenge will be facing either Iraq or Jordan.

Before his press conferences, Segrt makes it a point to shake everyone’s hand in the room out of respect, a value he has learned due to his difficult background in old Yugoslavia and Germany.

His positive and kind approach as well as his ability to bring harmony among the players have resonated with the young Tajikistan squad. Segrt’s contract will end after the Asian Cup, but there is no doubt that his loyalty lies with Tajikistan.