Uzbekistan will be hoping that their FIFA U-17 World Cup adventure has a while more to run as they take on AFC rivals Australia in their first Round of 16 match on Wednesday. The two teams recently squared off in the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship 2010 and there is little they do not know about each other. Picking a winner here is no easy task.
Uzbekistan have treated the crowds to some dazzling displays in the group stages, defying all predictions to beat USA and Czech Republic and finish on top of the Group D table. Their never-say-die attitude is given teeth by a skilful and speedy attack built around striker Timur Khakimov and captain Abbosbek Makhstaliev. If they can stay focused on the contest before them, Uzbekistan have the attitude and talent to go a long way in this competition.
Australia only qualified for the knockout rounds at the last minute, after their final game against Denmark was rescheduled due to stormy conditions. Once out on the pitch again, they made heavy weather of the contest. The Danes scored first and hung on grimly in defence until the Aussies produced a late equaliser. Indeed, the Joeys were inconsistent throughout the group stages. They followed a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Cote d’Ivoire with their best performance of the competition against Brazil, only to lose 1-0, and following their draw against Denmark they ended their Group F campaign in third place.
2 - This is the second time the two sides have met at junior level, the first being their thrilling tussle in the semi-finals of the AFC U-16 Championship in Tashkent. Abbosbek Makhstaliev was the hero then, scoring both of his team’s goals, with his winning strike coming in the last minute of the match to put Uzbekistan through to the final to face Korea DPR.
“Uzbekistan have had a longer break than us; we only get a day. It will be a very tough, physical contest We already played them in the AFC Championship and hopefully we can turn our mistakes in that game to our advantage and up our game. Ultimately, though, this contest will come down to who is in better shape,” Australia coach Jan Versleijen.
"This match is very important for us, and could represent another step forward for football in Uzbekistan. We want to continue our strong performance so far here in Mexico. We will play with the same fighting spirit that we have in our other games and we will not be afraid. We know the strengths of the Australian team and we will plan to exploit their weaknesses. Obviously, we hope that we will win and move on," Uzbekistan coach Aleksey Evstafeev.