Tashkent: Coach Jose Maria Pazos is looking for Uzbekistan to produce their best performance to date against Iraq in the quarter-finals of the AFC Futsal Championship at Uzbekistan Stadium on Wednesday as the hosts aim to book their place in the semi-finals for the eighth time.
Uzbekistan secured their place in the quarter-finals after beating Saudi Arabia, Kyrgyzstan and Lebanon to top Group A.
And with the vocal home support at a packed Uzbekistan Stadium proving to be among the highlights of the tournament, the hosts will be looking to use that to their advantage as Uzbekistan aim to advance to the semi-finals and confirm their qualification for September’s FIFA Futsal World Cup in Colombia.
“We are getting better step-by-step; we were quite nervous in the first game, but every game we have improved in attack so I hope tomorrow can be the best performance yet,” said Pazos, with Uzbekistan looking to make it to the final for the third time as hosts after achieving the feat in both 2006 and 2010.
“It will be difficult because we know Iraq’s potential and they showed how good they were in the group stage.
“Our players who were suffering from the flu don’t have a fever anymore, but are still not 100%, but they’ll definitely play.
“Someone will create history as both teams have never qualified for the World Cup, and I hope the fans can help us.”
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Appearing in only their second-ever quarter-finals, Iraq, meanwhile, will be looking to build on a positive group stage that began with wins over China and Jordan.
But after a comprehensive 13-2 defeat to Iran, Haitham Abbas’s Iraq will need to respond well if they are to reach the semi-finals for the first time.
“We know the fans of Uzbekistan give their team strong support and it is difficult to play the hosts. But we always tell our players to focus only on their own performance,” said Abbas.
“Of course Uzbekistan are a very good team with a good coach, but if we can keep our concentration and do our best, we have a chance.
“Penalties is also in our mind as we know that is a possibility. All my players have been practicing in case of that scenario.”