Strong contests on the cards on third day of AFC Asian Cup’s Round of 16 stage

Strong contests on the cards on third day of AFC Asian Cup’s Round of 16 stage

QLNews
By QLNews

Though the 2023 AFC Asian Cup’s Round of 16 matches are past its half-way stage, excitement will bubble as there are still some keen contests coming up.

Uzbekistan, who finished as runners-up behind Australia in Group B, will take on Thailand, who had finished second behind Saudi Arabia in Group F.

Uzbekistan, ranked 68th in the world, are 45 places above Thailand (113), but that will hardly matter as the two teams go face to face.

In the second game, Saudi Arabia will have to dig deep into their reserves to get past a motivated South Korea, who haven’t lifted the Asian title in several decades now.

With the tournament poised for another exciting day of football, here is a look at the different teams in the mix.

UZBEKISTAN VS THAILAND

Kick-off: 2:30pm
Venue: Al Janoub Stadium

Srecko Katanec has played down Uzbekistan’s tag as favourites for their 2023 AFC Asian Cup Qatar Round of 16 match against Thailand at Al Janoub Stadium on Tuesday.

Seeking to take Uzbekistan to a fifth quarterfinal appearance, Katanec is wary of the threat Thailand poses despite 45 places separating them in the FIFA World Ranking.

“You never know if it’s better to play after 3-4 days or like this (with a week’s break). We’ll see at the final whistle,” said the 60-year-old Slovenian. 

“The period between matches hasn’t helped with the players who were missing before because the players who’re injured are still out. We’ve a very difficult game because Thailand haven’t conceded a goal yet. They’re very organised with good press and good at transitioning. So maybe our draw isn’t as good as people make it out to be,” he added.

A week of training and recovery since they last took to the pitch for a 1-1 draw with Australia has not yielded much improvement for the White Wolves in terms of the playing squad with forward Igor Sergeev still recovering from injury.

Conversely, Thailand’s coach Masatada Ishii is able to herald the return of captain Theerathon Bunmanthan, who was suspended for the Australia tie.  

Theerathon hit a century of international caps during the goalless draw with Oman, and Ishii is pleased to be able to rely on the War Elephants’ inspirational leader again as they look to better their performance in UAE 2019 by reaching the last eight.

“Absolutely a plus for us to have him back in the squad, someone who’s very experienced at the international level,” said Ishii.

“As one of the most important players in the team, he can have a galvanizing impact on the team and he’ll make us one team. As we qualified for the Round of 16 with five points, we met our objectives, but now we want to continue competing in this tournament,” he added. 

SAUDI ARABIA VS SOUTH KOREA

Venue: Education City Stadium
Kick-off: 7:00pm

Jurgen Klinsmann has told his South Korea players to be prepared to go all the way to a penalty shoot-out in their efforts to defeat Saudi Arabia as both nations look to set-up a quarterfinal meeting with Australia.

Klinsmann will be going head-to-head with Saudi Arabia head coach Roberto Mancini for the second time since September, when the nations met in a friendly in England that the South Koreans won 1-0.

But Klinsmann admits the challenge facing his side will be very different compared to the narrow success achieved at Newcastle’s St James’s Park in only Mancini’s second game in charge of the three-time AFC Asian Cup winners.

“You can see now his handwriting on the team after 10 games and they’re a very good team, but we’re prepared. We’ve our strengths, we’ve our spirit that we need to believe we can move on,” Klinsmann said.

“We’ve trained hard over the last few weeks, and we’ve a goal in mind. We’re focused. We know we made a couple of mistakes, but we’ve corrected them and hopefully you’re going to see a really exciting game,” he added.

Both teams go into the meeting with concerns over their form, with Saudi Arabia struggling to overcome Oman in their tournament opener and drawing 0-0 with Thailand, while the Koreans have shown defensive frailties in their three games so far.

“South Korea is a very good team, even if they conceded six goals in the group stage it doesn’t change their strength because they’ve very good players,” Mancini said.

“They score a lot of goals. If they concede, then maybe we can know that if we attack we’ve a chance to score.

“Our preparation is the same as for other games, there’s no change. We play one of the best teams in the tournament. Not just attackers, the whole team is good. They’ve speed and quality with players in Europe. They’ve good quality and big experience,” he said.

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