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Fifa Under-17 World Cup: Uzbekistan coach wary despite opening victory

Nuraliyev’s side take on Morocco as opening-round losers Croatia and Panama clash

Image Credit: AFP
Morocco’s Karim Achahbar (left) fights for the ball with Croatia’s Elvir Maloku during theirFifa U-17 World Cup match in Fujairah on Friday. Morocco won 3-1.
Gulf News

Fujairah: All teams remain equal in Group C of the Fifa Under-17 World Cup, according to Uzbekistan coach Dilshod Nuraliyev, despite his side’s 2-0 win over Panama and Morocco shocking Croatia 3-1 in Friday’s opening matches.

Croatia now face Panama at Fujairah Stadium from 5pm on Monday, while Uzbekistan play Morocco at the same venue from 8pm.

Nuraliyev insists Uzbekistan and Morocco’s early advantage does not guarantee either side qualification from the group.

“Four teams remain and everyone is still a favourite,” said Nuraliyev. “For me it seems like Panama can give Croatia a very hard time and we can improve in our game against Morocco. It’s very hard to tell something after the first round of matches.”

Uzbekistan really had to wear Panama down before they snuck in two cheeky second-half goals, while Morocco raced into a 3-0 lead before the interval, only for Croatia to console themselves on the hour.

“I am very satisfied with the result,” said Nuraliyev. “But regarding the match we need to improve our gameplay and teamwork. We had some problems that we will work on and I think we can improve before we line up against Morocco.”

Similarly, Morocco coach Abdullah Al Edrissi is leaving nothing to chance against Uzbekistan, despite the manner of his side’s opening win.

“Nothing is done yet,” said Al Edrissi. “This win doesn’t mean we are qualified. It was only a simple game. We won and have three points but it is not yet finished and we have to continue against Uzbekistan.

“We will prepare for it seriously, without too much or too little confidence, but seriously, like we prepared for the match against Croatia.”

Meanwhile, Croatia coach Ivan Gudelj is looking for a complete change of attitude from his squad following their loss to Morocco.

Gudelj said: “Many players played individually and not as a team. You won’t beat anybody like that.

“With this approach we didn’t deserve to win. It’s not simple but for the next match the players should change their way of thinking about how to approach the game.

“The game makes stars and stars should be born on the field. They must use this situation to get themselves out of trouble.”

For that reason Panama coach Jorge Dely Valdes is expecting trouble against the Croatians.

“It’s very difficult to lose the opening game, especially in such a short tournament,” he said. “You also have to look at the fact Croatia lost their opening game, so they will also be eager to get a win. The next match will be difficult, we just have to look at the video, because although we lost 2-0, both goals were from lapses in concentration. We need to fix that before the next game.

“If we can see from the video who was underperforming and change that, maybe we can redress the balance.”