S-final - Preview: Drulovic expects Uzbekistan to reach final

Bangkok: Head coach Ljubinko Drulovic believes Uzbekistan have the quality and belief needed to beat Saudi Arabia when the two sides meet in the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 semi-finals on Wednesday.

Uzbekistan head into the showdown as the competition’s reigning champions and having sealed their place in the last four thanks to a decisive 5-1 defeat of the United Arab Emirates in the quarter-finals.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, have been just impressive en route to their meeting with the Uzbeks, topping a difficult Group C before beating host nation Thailand in the last round.

Despite the tie being arguably too close to call, Drulovic insists Uzbekistan have what it takes to prevail in a match which guarantees the winners a place at this year’s Olympic Games.

“For me, it is very hard to pick a winner for this game,” explained the Serbian tactician.

“It is a difficult game and one with a lot of pressure for both teams. I am, though, approaching the match in a positive way and telling the players that we have the quality to reach the final.

“We have an obligation to do our utmost to win the match and, although Saudi Arabia are a good and strong side, we are ready. We have great character running throughout our team and the players are, once again, prepared to give their absolute best.”

Although clearly buoyed by the nature of Uzbekistan’s win over the UAE last time out, Drulovic believes Saudi Arabia present an entirely different challenge, one he is backing his charges to overcome as they seek to reach Tokyo 2020.

“We have our strategy to try and play our brand of football, one that I believe will make a difference,” he said.

“Of course, 5-1 [against the UAE] was a very good result, but it will be very different when we face Saudi Arabia when maybe one or two goals will decide the course of the match.

“If we win this game we will, of course, play in the final but also qualify for the Olympics which would be a truly historical moment. I believe my players will show on the pitch who is better and who is stronger.”

Player To Watch: Islomjon Kobilov

Semi-final
Saudi Arabia vs Uzbekistan
Venue: Rajamangala Stadium
Kick-off: 17:15 (UTC +7)

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