Azərbaycan / Azerbaijan
- Capital: Baku / Bakı
- Official Languages: Azerbaijani
- Nicknames: Milli (The National); Odlar Yurdu (The Land of Fire)
- Association: Azərbaycan Futbol Federasiyaları Assosiasiyası (AFFA)
- FIFA Code: AZE
- Best World Cup Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Men): Not Qualified
- Best Euros Result (Women): Not Qualified
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 73rd (July 2014)
- Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 58th (December 2009)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 170th (June 1994)
- Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 148th (September 2015)
- Most Capped Player: Rashad Sadygov – 111 caps
- Top Scorer: Qurban Qurbanov – 14 goals
The Republic of Azerbaijan (Azərbaycan Respublikası) is one of the most easterly countries within the UEFA confederation, situated on the eastern side of the Caucasian region. Russia is its northern neighbour, with Georgia and Armenia to its west, Iran to its south, and the whole of its eastern border being a coastal region of the Caspian Sea. Azerbaijan was once part of the Soviet Union, and produced a number of excellent players for the Soviet side throughout the decades (especially in the 1960s), but as the USSR collapsed, Azerbaijan declared its independence in 1991, and became members of both UEFA and FIFA in 1994.
Alas in their nearly twenty years of qualifying, they have yet managed to qualify for a World Cup or European Championships, finishing towards the bottom end of qualification tables. However the side has proven to be a tough side to defeat, especially in Azerbaijan, with a number of great teams suffering draws or defeats to the Milli. Nonetheless, the capital of Baku is scheduled to host a number of group games and a quarter-final match in the upcoming European Championships as part of UEFA’s pan-European schedule for the tournament. The Azerbaijani side are currently in Division C of the UEFA Nations League, and in the most recent 2022 World Cup qualification draw, were ranked as the fourth-best side in ‘Pot 5‘. They will be the lowest ranked team in a group comprising Portugal, Serbia, the Republic of Ireland and Luxembourg.
Talking about a country who is yet to qualify for a major tournament but will be one of the host nations in the upcoming 2020/21 European Championships as it hosts matches in the ‘UEFA Category 4’ ranked Baku Olympic Stadium, we interviewed the Twitter account Football of Azerbaijan. They are an account which provides information, articles and news on all things that occur within Azerbaijani football in both the English and Azerbaijani languages. To find their social media accounts, follow the links below:
Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?
Best-ever player: Anatoliy Banishevskiy
[Anatoliy Banishevskiy was an Azerbaijani forward who played for the USSR between 1965 and 1972, making 50 appearances for the Soviet side and scoring 20 goals. He played for Neftyanik Baku (now Neftçi PFK) for all of his career, scoring 136 goals in the Soviet Top League for them. In 2003, he was selected as Azerbaijan’s ‘Golden Player’ as part of UEFA’s Jubilee celebrations, this regarded as the country’s most outstanding player during the UEFA era.]
Best-ever coach: Qurban Qurbanov
[Qurban Qurbanov, also known as Gurban Gurbanov, was a very successful player for the Azerbaijani national team having scored 14 goals in 68 appearances, thus making him the top-goalscorer in Azerbaijani international history. However he has also been very successful as a coach, leading FK Qarabağ to seven Azerbaijani Premier League championships and four Azerbaijan Cups. He also led the team to the group stages of the UEFA Champions League becoming the first Azerbaijani club to reach that stage. Qurbanov briefly managed the national team between 2017 and 2018, winning four and drawing five of his twelve games in charge before he resigned from the post.]
Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?
It is very difficult to answer on this matter and identify a ‘cult hero’.
Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player in the Azerbaijani national side currently?
The best player in the team currently is the goalkeeper Shahrudin Mahammadaliyev.
[The 26 year-old goalkeeper currently plays for Qarabağ and has made just three appearances for the senior team having played at under 21 and under 23 level for Azerbaijan.]
Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?
Unfortunately, the situation is the same as previous years. Experiencing many defeats and very rarely our national team wins.
Q. Are there any Azerbaijani players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?
We have talented players, but we can not say a word because they do not live the life of a legionnaire.
[Editor’s suggestion: the German-born Renat Dadaşov, a 21 year-old forward who is currently at Swiss side Grasshopper but on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers, would be a player worth keeping an eye on for the future.]
Q. Looking at Azerbaijan’ long international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?
We think the best game and results come from these matches:
Drawn games: 1-1 Portugal, 1-1 Belgium, 1-1 Russia, 0-0 & 1-1 Croatia.
Won games: 2-1 Serbia and Montenegro, 1-0 Finland, 2-0 N. Ireland, 1-0 Switzerland, 1-0 Turkey.
Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?
Of course, for example, we could not beat the Maltese national team recently, drawing 1-1 both home and away in the UEFA Nations League.
Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Azerbaijani national team?
We always support the national team, even if we know we will lose.
Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?
I can’t say a word about it, so it’s not applicable in this instance.
Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?
No, there isn’t a shirt that stands out.
Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Azerbaijani national team?
The future of our football depends on our football managers. If we want the national team to succeed, the number of teams in our championship must be increased, and the player limit must be abolished. Local players must first live the life of a legionnaire. We have very few local players playing in Europe, and without these players, our national team cannot be successful.
A massive çox sağ olun to Football of Azerbaijan for answering our questions on Milli. Remember you can find their excellent social media accounts in the links at the top of the blogpage.
If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.