Uzbek boss wants happy ending
Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov has called on his players to now go on and lift the AFC Asian Cup after the Central Asians reached the semi-finals for the first time in their short history with a 2-1 triumph over Jordan.
Following a goalless first-half at Khalifa Stadium, striker Ulugbek Bakaev struck twice in three minutes immediately after the interval to write himself into his country's footballing folklore. Bashar Bani Yaseen pulled a goal back for Jordan just before the hour but it was not enough as Uzbekistan completed a landmark victory.
"At the first press conference I said we could win this tournament and I've not changed my mind," said Abramov. "It was a very tough game because we had a chance to reach last four for first time and I think some players were scared to play in the first half.
"I told them what was missing in the first half and then I spoke about the first five minutes that we needed to be much stronger," he went on. "I told them they must attack and then we were fortunate to score two goals very quickly. Now I wait to see which team gets through the next round, maybe Iraq, maybe Australia. We need to rest and then look at what we are lacking and what we can do because so many players are tired already. I'll see what we can do."
Despite their quarter-final exit, coach Adnan Hamed hailed the performance of a Jordan side deprived of four regulars due to injury and suspension.
"I am very proud of my team and the players," said the Iraqi. "Our team lost concentration in the first five minutes of the second half but after that, when we scored, we got back on track and almost equalised.
"I have to admit that fatigue and exhaustion were there because we've played three matches and also we were missing four regular players," he said. "This impacted our performance but we exit with heads held high and the players have served their country. They were affected with fatigue but we played very well I think. We cover a lot of ground and we also included some new players, which affected the team, but we missed some chances, largely down to tiredness.
"There was very little concentration at start of second-half, some players were affected by knocks but this is football. But I'm happy with my team and I believe they have a good future ahead of them."