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Pakhtakor contingent will be raring to take on IR Iran, says Uzbekistan’s Abramov


Tashkent: It may only be a friendly, but Vadim Abramov believes the Pakhtakor players in his Uzbekistan squad will be determined to defeat Islamic Republic of Iran when the two teams meet in an international friendly on Thursday.

The Uzbekistan squad features 11 players from Pakhtakor, the Tashkent club which exited the 2020 AFC Champions League after a 2-0 quarter-final defeat by Iranian champions Persepolis FC in Qatar last week.

Persepolis, who later went on to qualify for December’s continental final by beating Saudi Arabia’s Al Nassr, have supplied five players in the Iranian travelling party, which arrived in Tashkent on Tuesday night.

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There may be less riding on Thursday’s match than the one completed a week ago, but Abramov believes atoning for last Wednesday’s defeat in Doha will still be on the minds of several of his charges.

“Everything will depend on how we play,” Abramov told the-AFC.com. “I think that, no matter what the names in the team are, everything will be decided on the field. Of course, Persepolis won (against Pakhtakor) but, for that, our players who lost will crave revenge, it seems to me.

“Well, let's see, football is such a game. It will show that you need to be ready on the day.”

For the first time in 2020, both sides are able to call upon the majority of their foreign-based stars, meaning the star-studded Iranian strike force of Sardar Azmoun (pictured above), Mehdi Taremi and Kaveh Rezaei will all be available to Team Melli boss Dragan Skočić.

The major draw for Uzbekistan is striker Eldor Shomurudov (pictured below), who this week completed a high-profile transfer to Italian Serie A outfit Genoa, and Abramov believes good performances from the 25-year-old could open the door to similar moves for other Uzbek players.

“We certainly hope so,” said Abramov. “Because it will depend on how Shomurodov will show himself there. In addition, it is necessary for our national team to show itself well.

“I think, if we play confidently enough, that other players will be invited. The footballers of Uzbekistan have always been appreciated in Europe, so he will not be the first to play there. For a long time, we have played for more famous teams there.

“(Maksim) Shatskikh played in Dynamo Kyiv. I think the team has a higher status than Genoa from Serie A, so we will be represented in Serie A. We had a footballer (Ilyos Zeytulaev) who played in Juventus, an Uzbek footballer, so this is not the first player.”

Thursday’s clash at Pakhtakor Stadium will be the first of two matches over the next week for Abramov’s squad. The White Wolves will also face United Arab Emirates in Dubai next Monday.

While home-based Uzbekistan teams have met Belarus and Tajikistan in friendlies this year, the approaching matches will be the first time in 11 months something resembling the full national team has kicked a ball in anger, and Abramov conceded there would likely be an element of experimentation in his approach.

“It is still the national team and of course the result is also important, (but) I would like to see more who is in what condition at the moment,” he said.

“Let's see how these or those players will cope. We haven't seen it for a long time. The tasks that we set them; we must discover in these games who we can count on in the future.”

Abramov also revealed that Uzbekistan will be without Jamshid Iskanderov for both matches, after the FC Seongnam midfielder encountered difficulties travelling from Korea Republic, but no such problems are anticipated ahead of the team’s trip to Dubai.

“No, we have no such restrictions, thank God,” said Abramov.

Both teams will use the friendly to gauge their players ahead next year's resumption of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023, with Iran third in Group C and Uzbekistan top of Group D.

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