Uzbeks confident of upsetting Australia

DOHA - Australia are a good team but do not inspire the kind of fear playing against five-time world champions Brazil would do, Uzbekistan's confident coach Vadim Abramov said ahead of their Asian Cup semi-final.

Abramov, who predicted before the tournament began that his side, ranked 108th in the world by FIFA, would lift the title retained that early self-assurance when he spoke to reporters ahead of the game.

Dressed in a fetching baby-blue suit he again mumbled confidently under his bushy moustache before Tuesday's last four clash at the Khalifa Stadium.

"Australia is a good team, but they're also not Brazil," said Abramov, whose team were knocked out at the quarter-final stage in the last two tournaments, at his pre-match press conference on Monday.

"My players can beat Australia. Japan beat Argentina (1-0 in a friendly in October), why can't Uzbekistan beat Australia?"

Abramov's positive approach seems to have rubbed off on his players as the somber looking, rampaging central-defender Odil Akhmedov also predicted an Uzbekistan win.

"We are not going to stop here. We are going to go to the final" he said, following a series of tidy passing displays which have seen them score two goals in each of the four matches they have played.

TIGHT DEFENCE

Australia, in contrast, have built their run to a first semi-final appearance on a tight defence, marshalled by Asian Player of the Year Sasa Ognenovski and captain Lucas Neill.

Australia, the highest ranked team here, 26th worldwide on FIFA's ladder, have only leaked one goal so far.

"They are used to scoring two goals in each game but it will change in the next one," Australian boss Holger Oseick told reporters.

The German coach, who took charge of the Socceroos in August, smiled when he was told of Abramov's confident predictions.

"I can underline what he said because if he had any doubts in his team he would be a bad coach.

"I can assure you I am of the same opinion but in reverse. I think we are strong enough to go through and I am confident in my players."

The Australians have been wary of all their opponents in Qatar this time after a disappointing showing on their debut in the tournament four years ago when they lost to Iraq, drew with Oman and exited in the last eight after being accused of over- confidence.

Their displays in Doha may have lacked the attacking flair of their opponents but they have eked their way through to the last four with narrow 1-0 wins over Bahrain in the group stage and holders Iraq in the quarter-finals after extra time.

"There's a kind of excitement about the game, it's going to be an interesting and challenging one.

"We know what we can do. We've had our talks, we have our plan. I know our boys are in position to transfer everything onto the pitch," Osieck said.

Three-times champions Japan face twice winners South Korea in the first semi-final on Tuesday at the Al Gharafa Stadium.


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