Uzbekistan’s Abramov looking to capitalise on rare Tajikistan clash

The clash is Uzbekistan’s first official fixture since February, and one of Asia’s only international matches in a 2020 calendar which has been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The clash between the Central Asian neighbours is going ahead without most of Uzbekistan’s established names – there are no players from top club FC Pakhtakor, or overseas based stars like Odil Ahmedov and Eldor Shomurodov – but Abramov sees Thursday’s fixture as a welcome opportunity to expose new talent to senior international opposition.

“It is probably always nice to start playing again after a long break,” said the 2011 AFC Asian Cup semi-finalist.

“This is our job, so these are positive emotions. Plus, you can see the guys who hope to play in the national team. We want to take a look, so it’s a useful game.

“We are looking at a large group of footballers – young ones who played for the U-23 team, plus promising guys who have never been invited to the national or U-23 teams.

“We want to see (the players) who have performed well in our championship. Today we have gathered players who do not play abroad and there are no representatives of Pakhtakor. We’re are looking at other players.”

Uzbekistan training - UFA

While Abramov is one of the few senior national team coaches in Asia to be coaching in an official match this month, the 58-year-old dismissed the suggestion that his team will be advantaged by their early return to the international scene.

With the Asian Qualifiers postponed to 2021, the experienced coach said he expects most teams in the continent to use the newly vacant international windows in late 2020 to prepare for the crucial matches ahead.

Uzbekistan training 4- UFA

“Well, I don't think that many (teams) are not active,” he said. “As far as I know, everyone is preparing, and some even went to training camps.

“I think in October and in November I think everyone will be actively involved. I think to postpone the qualifying cycle for next year was done precisely for this reason – because the teams could not prepare for this break. Now there is time to prepare, so I think everyone will use this time.”

While Uzbekistan are expected to field an unfamiliar line-up, visitors Tajikistan have arrived with several of the country’s top players, including star Istiklol duo Maunchehr and Alisher Dzhalilov.

“Due to the pandemic, air travel has been suspended. Despite this, we arrived by bus and everything is fine. We were welcomed at the border and our delegation arrived in Tashkent,” Alisher Dzhalilov told local press on Wednesday evening.

“There are many talented football players in the national team of Uzbekistan. We have studied the opponent's game well. It's nice to play against such teams, and we came to Tashkent to show a beautiful game. I hope the victory will be ours.”

Also among Tajikistan’s travelling party is Ehsoni Panshanbe, who this week completed a transfer to Uzbekistan Super League outfit Navbahor Namangan.

The 21-year-old former Istiklol midfielder has already won four Tajik league titles and featured 18 times for his country, with Dzhalilov predicting more success in the years to come.

“Navbahor have acquired a very high-quality player,” he said. “Despite his age, he is a very mature and intelligent footballer.

“I think he can do it. I hope Ehsoni will strengthen the game of Navbahor and will contribute to the new victories of the team.”

Thursday’s match will be played behind closed doors.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association

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