Uzbekistan, Iraq, Oman and North Korea will be looking to follow Japan and Iran into the semifinals of the AFC U-16 Championships on Monday when they play in the final two matches in the round of eight.
Japan and Iran powered into the semifinals in India on Sunday in the first two quarterfinals, Japan edging the UAE 1-0 thanks to defender Ayumu Seko’s first-half goal to maintain their 100 percent record, while Iran cruised past Vietnam 5-0 thanks to two goals from Allayhar Sayyad.
Uzbekistan vs Iraq
Timor Alimkhodjayev’s Uzbek team face off against Iraq knowing a win will see them up against tournament favourites, an unbeaten Japan side who are yet to concede a goal.
But the Uzbeks are also unbeaten and are full of confidence after beating reigning champions North Korea in their final group game.
Alimkhodjayev said he has been working with his side on the mental side of the game to make sure his team stay focused.
“Psychology is one of the sides of the game, all of us are human, and this could be one of the decisive factors in the match,” he told the AFC Website.
“However, we’ve had a long preparation for this tournament. And we hope the players will be able to play without any extra pressure.
Iraq, who finished runners up in Group C after a win and two draws, are looking to make the semis for the first time since 2012.
They also hope to make it through as the four teams who progress qualify automatically for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Coach Qahtan Chitheer said he was looking forward to an entertaining match.
“It is going to be a big game against Uzbekistan and one which is sure to be a good match that the fans are bound to enjoy,” he said.
“The Iraqi team, like other teams, want to get to the World Cup, but we will play relaxed without pressure to get to the end of our mission,” added Chitheer.
Oman vs North Korea
Oman head into the game on the back of a 3-0 win over Malaysia and two draws, a last-minute solo goal from Arshad Al Alawi against Iraq securing their qualification.
Led by the pacy, three-goal frontman, Oman coach Yaqoub Al Sabahi said his team is well prepared for the game.
“Korea are a good team but we will be ready for this game because we came here wanting to achieve something,” he said.
“Our boys are confident and have the mentality that they need to win this game. Just like the last match, we need to prepare them for the moment and I think they will be ready.”
North Korea, meanwhile, insist they are fully prepared for the tie, despite losing 3-1 to Uzbekistan in their final Group D game.
“Oman showed that they are a strong team because they won their group,” said coach Yun Jong-su.
“But I don’t think there will be any problems physically, tactically or mentally with our players. I don’t think there is any pressure and we are ready for this game.”