Captain Islomjon Kobilov is hoping history can repeat itself on Saturday when Uzbekistan take on Australia in the third place play-off at the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 as the two nations go head-to-head in the battle for the Continent’s final berth at the Olympic Games.
Uzbekistan are aiming to qualify for the Olympic Games for the first time in their history and Kobilov will be looking for his teammates to repeat the win achieved by several of the squad over the Australians at the AFC U-19 Championship in Bahrain in 2016.
“Before the match both teams have an equal chance,” said the central defender. “It’s very important and we are ready and confident.
“If I’m not mistaken, we played against Australia two or three years ago in the AFC U-19 Championship in Bahrain and we won that match. The result was 3-2 and it’s important for us, but we’re so focused on this game, we’re trying not to think about previous matches.
“This game is more important than the final and we will try to get a ticket to the Olympics. We will try to do our best and try to make our fans proud.”
Six of the squad in Thailand were involved in the U-19 tournament, including striker Doston Ibragimov, who scored twice in that meeting in the group phase as Uzbekistan raced into a three-goal lead before closing out a 3-2 win.
That was a rare victory for Uzbekistan against Australia at any level, with the nation from Down Under having something of a psychological hold over the Uzbeks with significant victories when facing the Central Asian nation in qualifying for the Olympic Games and at the AFC Asian Cup.
Coach Ljubinko Drulovic had been frustrated by his team’s uncharacteristic inability to score in their loss against Saudi Arabia in the semi-finals and was confident there would not be a similar performance in front of goal on Saturday.
“We will have our strategy and we will prepare well and there are a lot of situations when we will need quality,” he said. “We have good players, but against Saudi Arabia we didn’t score and that’s not normal for us.
“Normally we score and that was our problem in the last game. If we score we have more chances to win and I think we will score tomorrow because that’s important in these games."
“I think we are ready for this game. It’s very important for us. We will play as a team and try to give our best.
“Motivation is very important for this game. I think we have big motivation because for us this game is a final. We have one more chance to play in the Olympic Games.
“Tomorrow we will try to give our best and we have quality to play good football. They’re a very good opponent, but I think we have our chance to win the game if we play at a high level.”