Uzbekistan’s man on the spot, Kobilov shoulders the responsibility
Songkhla: Uzbekistan’s unlikely top goal scorer after two AFC U23 Championship matches, team captain Islom Kobilov has vowed to continue taking the side’s penalty kicks after scoring, and missing from the spot in Sunday’s 2-0 Group C win over China PR.
Already an Asian champion in the competition two years ago, the central defender also netted a penalty kick in Uzbekistan’s opening draw against Islamic Republic of Iran, with the accuracy of his right foot emerging as a key factor in their unbeaten start to the tournament.
The 22-year-old has experienced the ups and downs of being entrusted as the team’s designated penalty taker so far in Thailand, but he believes taking command for the big moments is part and parcel of being a leader.
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“There are several reasons why I take the penalties,” said the Bunyodkor stopper, who beat Chinese goalkeeper Chen Wei in the first half, before having a second penalty saved after half-time.
“One of the reasons is that I am the captain of the team, and the head coach told me that I can take penalties. That’s why, every time, I will try.
“Yesterday I practiced (penalties) during the training session. Today I was able to score the first penalty and I was confident (for the second), but maybe for the second penalty I lost some concentration."
Thursday’s win puts Uzbekistan on the precipice of a return to the knockout stage, with their dual goals of earning Olympic qualification and defending the 2018 title both very much alive, particularly if they gain a draw or better against Korea Republic on Wednesday.
While Uzbekistan won this tournament in 2018, the nation has never appeared at the Olympic Games or a senior FIFA World Cup, and Kobilov believes the time is now for his teammates to break the glass ceiling.
"After we played a draw in the first match against Iran, today we could achieve a victory. That’s very important for us.
“The Korean team won against Iran (on Sunday) and now our victory against China means we have more points and more chances to qualify for the next stage."
“Unfortunately, our national team has never qualified to the final stage of the FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games, now we have a chance to qualify for the Olympics and that’s why we will do our best.
“We have a lot of responsibility, and we feel this responsibility and we will try to qualify for the Olympics.”
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