Uzbekistan coach confident of beating Malaysia in Under-23 Asian Cup opener

AL RAYYAN: Malaysia face a daunting start as they kick off their Under-23 Asian Cup Group D campaign against a powerful Uzbekistan at the Khalifa International Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, tomorrow.

Uzbekistan head into the tournament having emerged champions in 2018, fourth two years later and runners-up when they hosted the previous edition.

And their head coach Timur Kapadze expects his men to be challenging for the title this time.

With the Doha tournament acting as an Olympic qualifier, it will no doubt make the Central Asian team more determined as they have never qualified for the Olympics, having missed out on the 2020 Games following a defeat to Australia in the playoff.

Kapadze's men will be oozing with confidence having held a formidable Qatar to a 1-1 draw and notching a 2-1 win in warm-up matches last month.

Kapadze, 42, said his team have the experience to come out tops in the group.

"We have prepared for a long period, my players are ready and we want to win the tournament," said Kapadze at a pre-match press conference, yesterday.

"In the opening match tomorrow, we respect our opponents. We have a target, which is to win.

"Everyone has a target to win the opening match... a lot of motivation for all teams, so all will give their best."

Malaysia coach Juan Torres Garrido said his men are eager to kick off their campaign against Uzbekistan.

"Our preparation has been good, we had a short period of a week before we arrived here. We are ready to play Uzbekistan who is a good side," said the Spaniard.

"Our team are excited, every young player knows it's a tough tournament and the opponents are challenging. Everyone is ready and looking forward to the tournament.

"We know that we are playing one of the favourites and one of the strongest sides here. Uzbekistan have a good squad overall, a lot of alternatives. We need to be at our best level to be competitive."

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