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Kapadze: Blockbuster opener will be tough for Uzbekistan, IR Iran

Tashkent: Uzbekistan head coach Timur Kapadze has reacted to Thursday’s AFC U-19 Championship Uzbekistan 2020 draw, predicting his side’s opening night clash with Islamic Republic of Iran to be a stern test for both sides.

The tournament hosts will also face the Southeast Asian duo of Indonesia and Cambodia in Group A, with the top two teams advancing to the quarter-finals.

In a draw which produced several mouth-watering fixtures, the Uzbekistan-IR Iran tournament opener at Bunyodkor Stadium stands out as a potential classic, but despite a challenging first step on the road to the knockout stage, Kapadze was relatively pleased with the outcome of Thursday’s ceremony at AFC House in Kuala Lumpur.

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“We will face Iran in the opening game of the AFC U-19 Championship, and it will be very tough for both of us,” said the former Uzbekistan national team star. “I think the draw was good enough with two strong teams in the group only.

“We don’t know how well Cambodia and Indonesia will challenge us to earn the first place in the group, but we will scrutinise their past games and tactics.

“Also, Group B was formed with strong teams, which provides interesting matches between them.”

Should Uzbekistan advance from Group A, they will qualify for a quarter-final meeting against one of the four sides from Group B, which appears to be the early contender for the competition’s ‘group of death’.

Korea Republic, Japan, Iraq and Bahrain all feature in that section of the draw, but whoever Uzbekistan end up facing in October’s tournament, Kapadze hopes his side will be in the mix to win the tournament for the first time in eight attempts at the Finals.

“Our main aim is to finish the group stage as group winners in Uzbekistan,” Kapadze declared, echoing his comments from earlier this week.

“As I have mentioned earlier, we will prepare our squad as well as possible for the tournament to achieve our goal, which is to lift the championship trophy.”

The AFC U-19 Championship will start on Wednesday, October 14 with the final to be played in Tashkent on Saturday, October 31.

The top four teams will qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup Indonesia 2021, with the fifth-placed side to join them at the global Finals should Indonesia finish among the semi-finalists in Uzbekistan.

Click here for the match schedule.

Photos: Uzbekistan Football Association

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