The India U-19 National Team will be looking to exorcise the ghosts of Tehran when they renew acquaintance with Uzbekistan in their third Group A encounter of the AFC U-19 Championship Qualifiers here at the Al Arabi Stadium in Doha, Qatar on Thursday.
The Indian U-16 National Team – comprising of the same batch playing the AFC U-19 Qualifiers at present — narrowly went down to eventual champions Uzbekistan in the AFC U-16 Championships in Tehran losing 2-3 in their first opening Group D encounter where they later held Syria and China to goalless and 2-2 draws respectively.
Fresh from their one-goal triumph over Nepal last Sunday, the Boys in Blue will be looking to pull off a heist against a side their Head Coach Colm Joseph Toal is all praise about.
“The fact that Uzbekistan have three different Teams between the age group of 1995-1998 reflects the depth of their pool of Youth Players,” Toal told www.the-aiff.com.
“They have a Team who will play the U-17 World Cup in UAE this month; they have a U-16 Team and a U-19 Team here in Doha. Also they have an U-20 outfit who took part in the FIFA U-20 World Cup recently and did remarkably well,” added Toal.
Uzbekistan have four teams between 1993 and 1998 borns. While their U-17 National Team (1996 borns) is all set to take part in the FIFA U-17 World Cup starting October 17 in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), their U-20 Team (1993 borns) reached the Quarterfinal of the recently concluded FIFA U-20 World Cup where they went down to eventual champions France 0-4 in the last-eight stage.
The 2012 AFC U-16 Champions also have their U-16 Team who will be playing in the Finals of the AFC meet next year in Thailand.
“The win against Nepal was vital and the Boys were excellent in that game. Even if the match had ended goalless, I would have been proud of the way we played. But of course it would have dashed our hopes of qualification,” Toal said.
“We are still alive thanks to Faiaz’s late winner. It gives us that extra impetus to go out there all guns blazing against Uzbekistan. It will be a tough match no doubt. They have some really good players, but the deserving win against Nepal should give us a lot of confidence,” he added.
The 57th Ranked Uzbeks have two players with World Cup experience in their ranks. While midfielder Bobur Davlatov was not only part of the FIFA U-17 World Cup in 2001 in Mexico and even scored a goal against the hosts in the Quarterfinal, forward Zabikhillo Urinboev is fresh from the crests of his country’s FIFA U-20 World Cup adventure this year in Turkey. Urinboev was also part of that U-17 World Cup Squad in 2011.
SK Faiaz scored the 87th winner from the bench to crown an excellent display by India where the Boys in Blue kept the ball for long spells and did not allow Nepal to get into the game at any point of time.
Uzbekistan U-19 National Team Head Coach Aleksey Evstafeev rolled back seven years when he was working under Colm Toal when the latter was the Head Coach of the Uzbekistan U-19 Team in 2005.
“I know him well. We have worked together in Uzbekistan back in 2005,” Evstafeev said when asked about what he makes of India. “It will be a good match against India. I have a lot of respect for their Coach,” he added.
Uzbekistan played the Japan U-19 National Team twice last month prior to the Qualifiers. They lost 2-3 in the first game, drawing 2-2 in the second meeting. Both the matches were played in Tashkent.
While India sit third in the points table with three points from two matches, Uzbekistan are just behind Qatar in second position courtesy inferior goal difference as the top two sides haven’t met as yet on Head-to-Head count which is tallied when two teams have same number of points.
The match at the Al Arabi Stadium kicks-off at 19.00 IST on Thursday.
(Report & Picture courtesy AIFF Media)