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Football: Asian Cup, Group B – Uzbekistan join China in quarters

Sardor Rashidov scored twice in Uzbekistan’s 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

Sardor Rashidov scored twice in Uzbekistan’s 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia. Photos: AFCAsianCup.com.

January 18, 2015: Coach Mirdjalal Kasimov has promised Uzbekistan will beat Korea Republic in next week’s AFC Asian Cup quarter-final, having seen the 2011 semi-finalists claim second place in Group B with a 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia on Sunday.

 

China earlier beat DPR Korea 2-1 for a third straight victory to top the group and set up a quarter-final against hosts Australia, who finished behind Korea Republic in Group A.

 

Sardor Rashidov scored twice for Uzbekistan, including the second-minute opener, while substitute Vokhid Shodiev was also on target at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium as Uzbekistan claimed the win they need to secure a fourth consecutive quarter-final appearance.

 

Uzbekistan have now set their sights on facing Korea – who beat Uzbekistan in the third place play-off in 2011 in Qatar – at Melbourne Rectangular Stadium on Thursday.

 

“We promise to beat Korea,” said Kasimov, whose side lost 1-0 to Korea during a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier in Seoul in June 2013. “We always think about losing to Korea in the World Cup qualifiers and I think the players will do their best. It will be an interesting game.”

 

The win was only Uzbekistan’s second in their last five games, although it was enough to deny Saudi Arabia the point they need to progress from Group B alongside China.

 

“As we expected, it was a tough game for both teams because both teams wanted to qualify for the next stage. Saudi Arabia’s players are very good and they showed this, and in my opinion they are one of the best in Asia as they have many quality players, but I think we were better. My players did well,” Kasimov said.

 

“It was one of the great wins in my opinion, but great because of our players as they did everything and put all their power onto the pitch and I am happy with them. If we play like this in all the games, we will reach a high level.”

 

Rashidov’s inclusion was one of five changes made by Kasimov following Wednesday’s defeat by China, with captain and two-time AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov one of those dropped to the bench by the former Uzbekistan international.

 

“We planned this type of rotation in our squad, but we planned it in another situation as we wanted to qualify after the second game, but we could not do this and I believe it was time to refresh some of the players in the squad,” Kasimov said.

 

“I am very happy this rotation helped us and I am proud of the young players who did everything today. Server Djeparov is very experienced and I think he will help us in this tournament in the future.”

Sun Ke scored twice in the first half in China’s 2-1 win over DPR Korea.

Sun Ke scored twice in the first half in China’s 2-1 win over DPR Korea.

China coach Alain Perrin is sweating on the fitness of his captain Zheng Zhi ahead of their quarter-final against the hosts on Thursday, after the midfielder was withdrawn early in the second half of their victory over DPR Korea on Sunday.

 

Zheng, 34, had risked suspension by starting the game against DPR Korea having already received a yellow card in their tournament opener against Saudi Arabia. Although he avoided a second booking of the competition, the influential skipper was substituted in the 53rd minute as a precaution.

 

By then, Sun Ke had already netted a first half brace to set China on their way to a first-ever 100 per cent record in the group stage since they first appeared in the tournament in 1976, although Gao Lin’s own goal in the second half did make for a nervous finish for Perrin’s side in front of more than 18,000 fans at Canberra Stadium.

 

“Zheng’s got a little problem in his back and there were some other important players we didn’t let play because of little issues. We hope it’s not that bad and I hope they recover before the next game,” said Perrin.

 

“Zheng Zhi is a key player and very important as he is an experienced player who helps organise the team. After he left the field, we had trouble in our organisation in the middle of the field. It is obvious that if you don’t have the key players on the pitch you will have difficulties.”

 

Nine years Zheng’s junior, Samsung Man-of-the-Match Sun had continued his goal-scoring streak after netting the winner against Uzbekistan in Brisbane on Wednesday, scoring his second and third goals of the tournament. Perrin highlighted the contribution of the attacking midfielder to China’s unbeaten progress through the group stages of the competition.

 

“Sun Ke is a very good player and has strong self-confidence. He is a very young player with a good spirit so I think he’s an important and helpful part of the team,” said Perrin. “He is good with both feet, can shoot and is a threat on goal. This is important because we do not have too much going forward so it makes me plan and build up this kind of strategy that all attacking players can shoot and score.”

 

China’s next challenge is a formidable one in the form of hosts Australia at Brisbane Stadium in four days’ time as the tournament enters the knockout stages.

 

“Playing against Australia the host team will be very difficult for us, but after three very difficult matches we’ve got a new record for Chinese football with nine points in the group stage which gives us confidence,” Perrin said. “For the next game, we’ll take very good preparation taking into consideration the conditions of the players and considering injuries to the players.”

 

Source: WSG / AFC / AFC Asian Cup (www.afcasiancup.com); Editing by SportAsia

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