Asian Cup Preview: China v Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan will be looking to sure up qualification after an opening win against Korea DPR in a rain soaked Sydney. Conditions were horrendous in the driving rain for both teams but a moment of brilliance from two-time Asian Player of the Year Server Djeparov’s was the difference.
A pinpoint cross to young starlet Igor Sergeev combined with a quality header was enough to see an unsure Uzbekistan get past Korea DPR.
Uzbekistan was dominant in the midfield with 60 per cent possession with an 84 per cent pass completion rate. The White Wolves won’t expect the Chinese midfield to sit back like Korea DPR but expect Uzbekistan to remain composed on the ball and a little sharper up front in their second game as they become more familiar with Australian conditions.
In stark contrast China only needed 36 per cent possession in the second half to see off a plucky Saudi Arabia. China were aided by a missed penalty from Naif Hazazi but like Uzbekistan probably deserved the points on the balance of play.
It was a typical performance from China who relied on a workmanlike performance from all 11 players. A deflected goal was their only avenue to goal but their play through the midfield justified the three points.
With both teams winning their opening match, a win in their second game should see either team advance to the knock out stages.
Played: 9 Uzbekistan: 5 Draw: 1 China: 3
Uzbekistan is one of a few teams capable of winning the tournament but must find a cutting edge to goal. Expect them to control the game in the midfield and play a much disciplined game in defence.
China will be prepared to sit back and soak up the early pressure and look to hit Uzbekistan on the counter. China will know in the back of their minds that their easier game of the group will be played on Sunday in Canberra.
The big issue:
China only had two shots on target and four shots at goal during their opening game against Saudi Arabia. Whilst the game was very open the lack of sharpness could cause headaches for coach Alain Perrin.
Uzbekistan, whilst playing far inferior opposition managed 16 shots at goal.
The attacking capabilities of the White Wolves should prove too much for the Chinese and could answer some more questions for hosts Australia on who they could meet in a possible quarter-final showdown.
Igor Sergeev has scored five goals in his opening nine games and looks a threat every time he is on the ball.
The 21-year-old presents all the attributes that could take this tournament by storm and could put a scare through the Australian and Japanese coaching rooms.
The 185cm striker is a genuine threat and has a prolific scoring record through the age ranks for Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan should prove too much for China, but expect a game played at a high pressure and fast pace.
If China can hold off Uzbekistan for the first hour you might see the team bus parked in defence for the remainder of the game.