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Group A: Matchday Three Preview

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Changzhou: Head coach Felix Sanchez believes Qatar can strike a significant psychological blow by finishing top of an intriguing Group A at the AFC U23 Championship 2018.

Qatar, who were fourth at the tournament’s 2016 edition, have put themselves on the verge of securing a spot in the quarter-finals thanks to solid 1-0 wins over Uzbekistan and then China, results that see them currently occupying first place ahead of the group’s final round of matches.

With Monday’s crunch clash against host nation China looming large on the horizon, Sanchez feels his side could gain a significant boost if things go their way at the Changzhou Olympic Sports Center.

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“To qualify for the next round would be a good achievement, but I think finishing first gives you confidence because you will have finished top of a very tough group,” said the Spaniard.

“I believe that in a long competition like this, confidence is important, because over the course of 90 minutes you can be the first or the last team.

“If we can now get a result against China, it would give us even more confidence going into our next game (in the quarter-finals).”

Despite seeing China beaten by Uzbekistan in their second game of the competition, Sanchez is not about to take the East Asian powerhouse lightly ahead of the key encounter.

“We know that China are a very strong team and we will plan well for the match, just as we did for the other two teams in the group.” he explained.

“China have shown over the course of their two games, even during their defeat to Uzbekistan, that they have talented players and are very well organised.

“We will approach the game as if it was a final.”

Massimiliano Maddaloni, meanwhile, is adamant that China will not be adversely affected by their defeat to Uzbekistan on Matchday Two, saying: “As far as we are concerned, we need to reflect on the result of the game against Uzbekistan in a positive manner.

“We need to have confidence because we are growing up as a team. “We need to face our next opponents, who are Qatar, in a positive frame of mind.”

Elsewhere, Uzbekistan head into their decisive fixture against Oman at the Jiangyin Sports Center knowing that a win would also see them through to the competition’s knockout phase.

Following their impressive win over China, a victory that reignited the Central Asian side’s hopes in the wake of an opening day defeat to Qatar, head coach Ravshan Khaydarov is grateful to at least be in with a chance of progressing to the last eight.

“The next game against Oman is very important for us,” he explained. “The win against China was very important because of the situation we found ourselves in following the game against Qatar.

“I think that every team in this group will now face a battle to qualify, as all four teams still have a real chance to reach the quarter-finals.”

With his team yet to gain a point following back-to- back at the hands of China and Qatar, Hamad Al Azani is looking for Oman to shine brightly in what could potentially be their final game at the tournament.

“I was disappointed with the last result (against Qatar), and for sure we will try our very best to qualify.

“It would be a great pity to go out of the competition without having won any points.”

Photos: AFC