BY RIZWAN REHMAT
DOHA: Hosts Qatar are banking on their new-found confidence to upstage ‘tough’ Uzbekistan today when the two sides clash in their 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifying match.
Coached by shrewd tactician Paulo Autuori, Qatar underwent a week-long training camp in neighbouring Abu Dhabi before playing two closed-door friendly matches in the build-up for their match at Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium.
“I am very satisfied the way we played our two matches (against Jordan and Oman). And yes, we achieved many things from our camp in the UAE,” Autuori said.
“So I know we are focusing right for this match. We put all the players of the squad on the pitch in the two friendly games. Every player in the squad hit the pitch and got practice,” the Brazilian added ahead of today’s key Asian Zone qualifier.
“Tomorrow I hope we show what we picked up in the last two weeks or so,” Autuori said.
Qatar are in third place in Group A of Asian Zone qualifying behind points leaders South Korea and Iran.
Lebanon are in fourth spot whereas Uzbekistan are lying at the bottom of the table. Qatar now have four points from three matches. Iran, too, have four points, thanks to a win over Uzbekistan. Korea have a tally of 7 points from three matches.
“We know what we need to do. The most important thing is to keep our emotions in control. We have improved a lot,” Autuori said. “I am happy with our training camp in the UAE.”
Despite the surge in confidence, Autuori is not taking today’s opponents lightly.
“It is an important match for both sides. Uzbekistan played very tough matches against Iran and Korea. They played well under pressure,” the Qatari coach added.
“Surely, we are facing a strong team. We need to be at our best to beat them. We will do everything we can to win this match. I want the spirit of sacrifice for the team from my players. That’s what we need to win this match.
“I know how the media thinks (about past results) but in football, things are different. I don’t think Uzbekistan have played bad against Iran (Uzbekistan lost 1-0) and Korea (the match ended in a 2-2 draw).
“Uzbekistan are aggressive (but) we have a good chance to qualify. This is football. You cannot predict what will happen. However, we are not only looking at this match only. We are also looking at the future.
“Korea are the favourites because they are showing how experienced they are. Our path is long, so hard. For the (win) we will have to work hard,” he added. The coach dismissed the notion that an early kick-off would be a disadvantage to the players.
“Many people are saying many things. There are lot of people talking. You will note that humidity is high around 7:00pm and not that much around 3:25pm. I just want my players to know - and they know it - that it doesn’t matter what time we play,” he said.
“There’s no need to complain about the pitch, the kick-off time, the conditions, the opponents etc. We need to perform on the pitch. Uzbekistan have a very, very good side. We have to be at our best to beat them,” he said.