(MENAFN - Gulf Times) Coach Shin Tae-yong has underlined the importance of Korea Republic making a positive start to the AFC U23 Championship against Uzbekistan today in a Group C that also contains defending champions Iraq as well as Yemen.
Korea, who lost to eventual champions Iraq in the semi-finals of the AFC U-22 Championship at the start of 2014, claimed the bronze medal at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. And with Korea looking to qualify for an eighth consecutive Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro later this year, Shin's side face a tough test of their credentials at Suhaim Bin Hamed Stadium against an Uzbekistan side who reached the quarter-finals at the 2014 FIFA U-20 World Cup in New Zealand.
"We had a very good process of preparation throughout, so I'm looking forward to showing a good performance in the first game against Uzbekistan," said Shin, who oversaw Korea's 100% qualifying campaign.
"It will be important and I hope after that we will be able to put in a good performance in the second and third matches as well. I think all three teams will be really tough for us. The first game against Uzbekistan is important for us, and it's a significant game, and then we will prepare for the games against Yemen and Iraq. "
Uzbekistan failed to progress beyond the group stage at the AFC U22 Championship in Oman two years ago, but are buoyed by a strong showing in New Zealand last year as Samvel Babayan's side chase a first-ever Olympic Games appearance having lost in the play-offs for London 2012.
"If we put things on the right track there will be a reason to be optimistic and we would like to show our best performance during the tournament to kill those doubts about the Uzbekistan team," said Uzbekistan coach Babayan, who is also the national team coach.
"I would say that Group C is the strongest in this tournament. I strongly believe that at least one of the teams from this group will qualify for Rio because there are strong teams in this group."
Also today in Group C, defending champions Iraq begin their campaign against Yemen earlier at Suhaim Bin Hamed Stadium. Iraq won the AFC U22 Championship at the start of 2014 with a 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia in the final.
"Our team is in the strongest group in this tournament and the two teams who will qualify from this group for the quarter-finals will go very far. We came here as a strong competitor and we are the holders of the title and we have a strong team who can really win this tournament," said Iraq coach Shahad Abdulghani.
"Holding the title gives us a boost to do better in this tournament, but we have to face reality, we have to go step-by-step and we have to think about the group stages first, then the knockout stage, and we have to make all the calculations of all the possibilities such as the other teams, which will give us a clear view of the teams and the group itself."
Yemen failed to progress beyond the group stage in Oman two years ago following three defeats, but finished fourth at the 2015 WAFF U23 Championship after being edged out 2-1 by Qatar in the bronze medal play-off.
"We started our preparation with the west Asian tournament in 2015 when we reached fourth," said Yemen coach Amin al-Sunaini.
"We have played some experimental matches and I think the matches in preparation were sufficient, but the draw put us in a very strong group with three strong teams, all of them are looking to win the title, but we have huge confidence in our team that we can perform well in the matches, starting with our first match against Iraq."
Legal Disclaimer: MENAFN provides the information “as is” without warranty of any kind. We do not accept any responsibility or liability for the accuracy, content, images, videos, licenses, completeness, legality, or reliability of the information contained in this article. If you have any complaints or copyright issues related to this article, kindly contact the provider above.