Asian Cup Preview: Uzbekistan v North Korea

Topics

Uzbekistan need to make a winning start against North Korea if they are to advance beyond the Asian Cup group stages.

Mirjalol Qosimov's Uzbeks are expected to advance from Group B, which also includes Saudi Arabia and China.

But they need their tournament to start with a victory when they face North Korea at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday.

North Korea are Asia's 24th-highest ranked team, making them huge outsiders at the 16-team tournament in Australia.

Uzbekistan were fourth at the 2011 edition of the tournament and they could achieve that once more given they are expected to progress to the quarter-finals.

Qosimov's men played four December friendlies, so they should be match-ready for the opening game.

A pair of those were victories, while the other two finished in draws against Iraq.

Captain Server Djeparov is the man to watch for Uzbekistan, and with 23 international goals he is the top-scorer in the squad.

Anything other than a victory would be a huge blow to the Uzbeks, who are favourites to both progress and top the group.

North Korea and coach Jo Tong-sop have brought a relatively young squad for the tournament.

Only four of North Korea's squad ply their trade outside of their home nation – Cha Jong-hyok, Ryang Yong-gi, Ri Yong-jik and Pak Kwang-ryong.

Ryang was born in Japan and has played his entire professional career with Vegalta Sendai.

But it would come as a surprise if the 33-year-old could lead North Korea to even a draw against Uzbekistan.