Sharjah: Asian champions Uzbekistan showed they are one of the most tactically astute teams at the ongoing Fifa Under-17 World Cup here during the group stage — and now they must carry that organisation into the knockout rounds.
Dilshod Nuraliev’s side kept two clean sheets and only conceded one goal in total when finishing second in Group D, meaning they will take on Honduras in the last-16 at Sharjah on Monday.
The Uzbek players have carried out coach Nuraliev’s instructions well so far, sticking to the basics rather than relying on flamboyance in their play. Up front, they have remained patient and persistent in their attacks. Goalkeeper Sarvar Karimov only let in his first goal — scored by Croatia’s Alen Halilovic in their third and final group match — after 208 minutes of action at the World Cup.
“My team is mentally strong and at the same time the players are ready for hard work to ensure they help out in the defending,” Nuraliev said. “We are a team and we rely on working together as a unit.”
Of Monday’s match, the coach added: “This is the World Cup and we really cannot take any team for granted. Honduras have shown why they were the second best team in their group and we will be ready for them.”
However, Uzbekistan will miss the services of Jamshid Boltaboev after the striker collected yellow cards in the group.
Honduras finished second in Group A, starting off with a 2-1 win over hosts UAE before holding Slovakia to a 2-2 draw. Their last match saw them go down 3-0 to three-time champions Brazil.
“We know what we need to do against a physically strong side like Uzbekistan,” Honduras coach Jose Valladares said. “They defend well and they are pretty quick on the counters. We have a plan worked out on how to contain Uzbekistan.
“Maybe Honduras are not one of those big football countries, but we are here with an objective and we hope we can prove this on the ground.”