Ahead of Wednesday’s 2010 World cup qualifier between Australia and Uzbekistan in Sydney, Goal.com Asia talks to followers of each team
Australia could clinch qualification for South Africa with a win against their opponents. Uzbekistan picked up their first win of the campaign so far last weekend and are going for third place and the play-offs.
Answering the questions for Uzbekistan is journalist Behzod Nazarov while Con Stamocostas gives the lowdown from the Australian camp.
Can Uzbekistan still qualify?
Of course. If you have even a little chance, you must try to reach it and that is what the Uzbekistan national team must do also. I think. The Uzbek team will play the next matches as finals. If our team reaches seven or eight points Uzbekistan will qualify for the play-off stage. But our chances aren't good for the second place in the group.
The team was better in the third round of qualification... what happened?
Opponents weren't strong in the third round. Lebanon and Singapore are improving but they aren’t Japan or Australia. Yeah, we beat Saudi Arabia 3-0 but we lost 0-4 in Riyadh. In my opinion, tactics were wrong against Qatar in Doha. Uzbek team attacked too much from the start.
Was the dismissal of Rauf Inileyev a good idea?
It's a difficult question to answer what happened with Inileyev (best coach of Asia in 2007)? He was fired just because he couldn't get good results in two matches of the fourth round. But Inileyev made a clever and big team in 2007.
How about present coach Kasimov?
Kasimov was the best player of Uzbekistan in his career. The UFF gave him chance to lead national team. It was the right decision because he has all things to become a good coach. If he leads national team for the next three of four years, Kasimov will become successful.
Who has been the best player so far for you?
The best is Odil Ahmedov, I think. He has a great opportunity to play in European clubs. Ahmedov is one of the hearts of the national team and Pakhtakor.
What do fans think at the moment?
Fans always believe in their teams and Uzbek fans are the same. Many fans were angry after the loss to Bahrain in Tashkent but they were out in force for the game at home against Qatar.
Can you win in Australia?
Yes. Australia is the strongest team in Asia. The Socceroos have showed this especially in the fourth round. Playing against Australia is always difficult. If you play in Sydney, it will be more and more difficult. This team has many great players and they have a lot of experience. Kewell, Bresciano and other players take part in big championships in Europe. If we win in Australia, it'll be historical achievement for Uzbekistan.
Which Uzbek player should Australia be careful of?
Odil Ahmedov and Ignatiy Nesterov. I mentioned Odil earlier. What can I say about the goalkeeper? Ignatiy saved his club and national team several times.
Which Australian player is most dangerous?
For Asian teams all Socceroos are dangerous. If I say one or two names, I can cry to Uzbek players: Attention, please, Kewell, Bresciano, Wilkshire are coming!
What have Uzbekistan learned from world cup qualification?
We have learned many things from Australia and Japan. How we should play better, be more careful and make less mistakes. Now our players have great experience from big matches. It will be useful for Uzbekistan in the next qualifying stages of World Cup and Asian Cup
This must be a bit different than the usual play-off drama? Yes but the anxiety, anticipation and excitement is still there. Perhaps the fact that even if Australia win against Uzbekistan, qualification seems uncertain so the outpouring of emotion that swept through Australia like a tidal wave almost four years ago will be postponed until all the results are in and qualification is secured.
Will Australia win?
Yes I believe they will, but Uzbekistan will not be easy. They have come from a morale boosting 4-0 win over Qatar over the weekend. There players can take the confidence from that win. However if Australia play to their own strengths I believe they will be too strong for Uzbekistan.
Is there danger of complacency?
I don’t think there is. Players like Harry Kewell and Lucas Neill have been talking about keeping their minds on the job and so has the coach. The players are experienced and know what they have to do.
Are you concerned about the style of play that has been criticized of late?
Not really, qualifying for the World Cup is more important than style. A winning style is a good style and I’ll take that for the moment. However what happens at the world cup and how Australia play will be important there, if we qualify.
How much do you know about Uzbekistan?
I know that Djeperov is a really good player. I know they have a young squad, I know they missed out on qualifying for the last world cup in controversial circumstances. You can say they are the closest to a European in terms of their style and build. A lot of money has been invested in Uzbekistan football of late. They have been unlucky in some games of this second qualifying round, they are a good team.
Who is their danger man?
I would say midfielder Server Djeparov but their tall striker Farhod Tadjiyev scored a hat trick on the weekend so Australia must watch him as well.
Who is yours?
Everton midfielder Tim Cahill and Galatasaray star Harry Kewell of course. Tim might not play the whole game if he is not fully fit, so in that case Harry looks in good form at the moment for his club, he is looking reborn and I would particularly like to see something special from him.
If qualification is secured, what would you like to see in the next few games?
I would like to see more young players used and a more attacking style of play. Utilising players like Gencleberligi duo Bruce Djite and James Troisi, Hull attacker Richard Garcia and the forgotten man of Australian football, the immensely talented Nicky Carle.