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Tashkent: Coach Jose Maria Pazos hailed Uzbekistan’s never-say-die attitude after the hosts narrowly missed out on claiming a first AFC Futsal Championship title after losing Sunday’s final 2-1 to Iran.

Dilshod Irsaliev gave Uzbekistan the lead early against an Iran side who had scored 46 goals in their five games leading up the final only for Ghodrat Bahadori and Mohammad Keshavarz to net before half-time.

And despite Uzbekistan’s best efforts in the second half, Pazos’ side were unable to force an equaliser as Iran secured an 11th continental crown.

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“We spoke before the game about how important it was to stop them in the first five minutes because in every match they have destroyed their opponents early on,” said Pazos.

“We did stop them and we were able to score, which helped us a lot. But the first goal we conceded was an error because the defender should have closed the player down, and the second goal was a lack of concentration when the ball was out of play.

“But I’m proud of my players. They fought for the whole tournament and they had Iran afraid that we would get a draw until the very last moment. Maybe tomorrow we can realise what we did in this tournament, but now is not the best time to do that because we are all very sad.

“I also want to mention the fans because in all my career I have never experienced support like that. I have been in Europe and Asia and I’m sad we missed a chance to win for them.”

Uzbekistan began their continental campaign with wins over Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan, and Lebanon to advance to the quarter-finals at the top of Group A.

A 3-0 quarter-final victory over Iraq ensured Pazos’ side progressed to the 2016 FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia as one of the tournament's top five teams before Uzbekistan defeated Thailand 3-1 on penalties in the semi-finals following a tense 2-2 draw after extra-time.

“The big difference was that in every game we had to fight until the last minute; they didn’t have any tough games like us so didn’t have to spend too much energy,” added Pazos.

“Even in the last power-play we were too tired. But I must congratulate my players for the effort they have put in.

“We missed a great chance to beat Iran today. They scored their two goals because of mistakes by us. It was a lack of concentration which you can’t have in these big games.”

Photo: AFC