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Drulovic proud of Uzbekistan despite Olympic disappointment

Bangkok: Uzbekistan head coach Ljubinko Drulovic has declared that he is proud of his players despite seeing the Central Asians lose 1-0 to Australia on Saturday to finish fourth at the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 and have their hopes of qualifying for this year’s Olympic Games dashed.

Nicholas D’Agostino’s superb 47th minute strike proved the difference on a night when Uzbekistan missed several opportunities to seal the win and their cause was hindered severely by the second-half dismissal of substitute Oybek Bozorov.

The result brought Uzbekistan’s once promising campaign to a disappointing end, and left Drulovic to reflect on what could have been for the competition’s 2018 champions.

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“I am very proud of my players as they gave everything for Uzbekistan, for the people of the country and for the fans” declared the Serbian tactician.

“Of course, we don’t like to lose, but sometimes things like this happen, this is football. We gave everything on the pitch but we can do nothing about that now.

“We gave our absolute best in every situation there was to qualify for the Olympics. It is, in truth, difficult to comment on the match as we lost a big chance to play in the Olympics which was our target when we came here.”

#AFCU23 - 3rd Place Play-off: Australia 1-0 Uzbekistan

Having been the better side during the first period, Uzbekistan’s challenge faltered somewhat after the break as they ultimately failed to join tournament finalists Korea Republic and Saudi Arabia at Tokyo 2020.

However, after seeing his charges impress at times during the Continental get-together in the Thai capital, Drulovic was adamant that several positives had emerged during Uzbekistan’s campaign.

“Overall, we played good football at this tournament,” he said. “Of course, I am not happy because we had our dream of reaching the Olympics, but the Uzbekistan team has good players, good professionals and we worked very well at this AFC U23 Championship.

“Small differences decided our [semi-final] match against Saudi Arabia and then again against Australia – crucial games we lost 1-0. We tried to do everything we could, but we cannot control all that happens. Our players need to forget this [disappointment] and give their all next time.”

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