Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov believes his side are showing all the qualities needed to be AFC Asian Cup champions following their 2-1 defeat of Kuwait at Al Gharafa Stadium that puts them on the cusp of a place in the quarter-finals.
Maksim Shatskikh's free-kick took a heavy deflection off team-mate Aziz Haydarov to give the central Asians the lead after 41 minutes but Kuwait hit back soon after the restart when Bader Al Mutawa converted a penalty. But a sublime long-range finish from former Asian player of the year Server Djeparov settled the encounter in favour of the Uzbeks.
Abramov's side would have sealed their place in the last eight had Qatar failed to beat China PR later the same day, but as it was the hosts won 2-0 to ensure the battle to qualify from Group A remains wide open.
"Every team at this tournament is very strong and I hope the quality of the football does not get less," said Abramov. "I think we can cause some surprises and I hope Uzbekistan will be champion in this tournament, but there are many other good teams here so it will be difficult, but I hope it will be Uzbekistan."
Abramov had hoped to be in a position to be able to rest players in Uzbekistan's final group game against China PR but will now need to assess his options, with a draw or a victory against the East Asians necessary to cement a place in the quarter-finals.
"We must look at the next game and think because some players have yellow cards so we must check our situation," he added. "I have a plan to play China. But first I need to check the situation."
Despite the defeat Kuwait still have a chance, albeit slim, to snatch a top-two finish in the group and progress to the knockout stage. But whatever happens in their final group game against Qatar, coach Goran Tufegdzic felt his players have done themselves proud in Doha.
"Our team lost this match but we have one match remaining against Qatar. Our target is to win that match and pick up our first three points of the tournament," said the Serbian. "Maybe my players need more experience but what can you do, these things happen and one thing is for sure is that these players have a good future."