Preview - Q-final: UAE vs Uzbekistan

Bangkok: Uzbekistan head coach Ljubinko Drulovic will look to put his knowledge of the United Arab Emirates to good use on Sunday as he leads his side into their clash against the West Asian nation in the quarter-finals of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020.

Drulovic’s team slipped to a defeat against Maciej Skorza’s side in a friendly in November and the Serbian coach is hoping for a better result at Rajamangala Stadium as he looks to keep Uzbekistan’s dreams of defending the title and earning a berth at the Tokyo Olympic Games alive.

“It’s a difficult game tomorrow because we will play a very good team,” he said. “We played them a few months ago, we played in Dubai and lost 2-1 so we will try to be better and we will try to play our football.

“We have had one more day to rest and we believe we can win and realise our dreams and try to take this team to the Olympic Games.”

Uzbekistan won the AFC U23 Championship title in China two years ago under coach Ravshan Khaydarov and Drulovic has brought a team that features a core group of players who were part of that historic success.

“I think we have eight players from that team and their experience can help in this case and can help us win this big competition,” he said.

“Our target is the Olympic Games because, in my opinion if you look at the group games now Korea Republic is favourite. We will see, maybe we will have a good surprise but it’s not easy.”

The UAE come into the game having won Group D ahead of Jordan, DPR Korea and Vietnam and head coach Skorza can draw confidence going into the knockout rounds from his team’s performance at the Asian Games.

Eighteen months ago the Emiratis claimed the bronze medal at the Under 23 tournament in Jakarta and the same result would take the nation to the Olympic Finals for the second time in three editions, having previously qualified for London in 2012.

“After a very tough game against Jordan now all our efforts will be focused on the game tomorrow,” he said. “It’s very important, another stage to realise our dream of going to Tokyo.

“Of course, there is a tough competitor ahead of us and we know all about this team. They are defending champions but I believe in our players. They will be hard working and they will achieve the result."

“I think all our players will be ready to play. I have fantastic staff and my assistant coaches and the medical staff are helping them recover very quickly. We have had one day less to prepare for this game but I think we will be ready.

“Uzbekistan is the favourite in this game but at the Asian Games we won the bronze medal and I believe our players can do the same.”

Players to watch

UAE vs Uzbekistan
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium
Kick-off: 20:15 (UTC +7)

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