Australia, China, Uzbekistan start as favourites on Day Two

Australia, China, Uzbekistan start as favourites on Day Two

QLNews
By QLNews

The 2023 AFC Asian Cup will kick into high gear on Saturday, with three thrilling matches set to send fans’ pulses racing.

Former champions Australia, who are single-mindedly focused on regaining the title they last won at home in 2015, will face India in Group B, who will look to put up a good show in front of thousands of their fans.

Petar Segrt’s Tajikistan, who are making their AFC Asian Cup debut, will take on China in Group A’s second game. The Tajiks, who will no doubt relish their moment under the spotlight, will aim to surprise.

Uzbekistan will sorely miss their playmaker Eldor Shomurodov ahead of their tie against Syria, but head coach Srecko Katanec is confident his boys can out on top.

Here is a look at how Saturday’s three matches are poised.

GROUP B

AUSTRALIA VS INDIA

Kick-off: 2:30pm

Venue: Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium

Australia’s head coach Graham Arnold has a fully-fit squad to choose from, including experienced goalkeeper Mathew Ryan, as the team looks to make a winning start in Qatar.

Australia will go into the tournament on the back of a four-match winning run, scoring 13 goals and conceding none, and will be looking to avoid starting on the back foot like in UAE 2019, when they lost their first group game against Jordan. 

The two sides faced each other in their opening group game at the 2011 Asian Cup in Qatar, where Australia ran out 4-0 winners. This time around too, India’s job will be tough as they are missing some key players in Ashique Kuruniyan, Anwar Ali and Jeakson Singh.

 

GROUP A

CHINA VS TAJIKISTAN

Kick-off: 5:30pm

Venue: Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium

Tajikistan, the only debutants of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup, booked their ticket to Doha by topping a qualifiers group that included the Kyrgyz Republic, Singapore, and Myanmar.

Croatian coach Petar Segrt, who took charge of Tajikistan in January 2022, helped them qualifying for their first-ever major tournament. It was the crowning glory for a coach who also managed Indonesia, Afghanistan, and Maldives.

They lost key players — Amirbek Juraboev and Manuchehr Dzhalilov — and it will make their game against China a daunting affair.

Meanwhile, 51-year-old Serbian coach Aleksandar Jankovic, who took charge of China a year ago, will be looking to create a stable environment within the team to help them do better than their quarterfinal finish in the UAE four years ago.

 

GROUP B

UZBEKISTAN VS SYRIA

Kick-off: 8:30pm

Venue: Jassim bin Hamad Stadium

Eldor Shomurodov, who plays for Italian Serie A side Cagliari, suffered a leg injury in December which ruled him out of the continental showpiece and it could prove to be a costly injury for the Uzbeks.

With Uzbekistan’s next encounters being against familiar rivals India and Australia, head coach Srecko Katanec said the first match had to be won at all costs.

Syrian head coach Hector Cuper, who coached Uzbekistan at the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019,  will use the pressure of reaching the knockout stage for the first time as motivation for his  squad.

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