Uzbekistan hold nerve to claim first Asian under-20 title

Tashkent, March 19 (BNA): Uzbekistan held their nerve to win their first ever U-20 AFC Asian Cup title with a 1-0 victory over Iraq thanks to a second-half penalty kick by Omarali Rakhmanaliyev in front of a packed crowd. Bunyodkor Stadium.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was among the 34,000 spectators who turned out to witness the victory of Uzbekistan’s youth team after Rakhmanaliev slotted home a penalty in the 72nd minute, Reuters reported.

“The players played well and we created many chances, so I think that’s why we won this cup,” said Kaidarov, who previously led his country to win the AFC U-23 title in 2018.

“It’s the first final for my players and they have adapted well. When you play in a full stadium you have to adapt, enjoy it and play responsibly. They have shown they have enough experience.”

The win came at the end of a 16-team tournament that featured Asia’s leading youth teams, with the top four – Uzbekistan, Iraq, Japan and South Korea – all qualifying for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia in May.

Ravshan Khaidarov’s team won the title despite struggling in front of goal for most of the tournament.

Uzbekistan scored two goals in the last four matches of the competition and needed a penalty shootout in the quarter-finals to overtake Australia before defeating the Koreans in a penalty shootout to advance to the final.

It took another penalty for the hosts to win the decider, with Rachmanaliyev netting after the tournament’s most valuable player, Aposbek Fayzlayev, was brought down in the penalty area by a clumsy challenge from Iraqi defender Sajjad Muhammad.

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“These players have a very beautiful future,” Kaidarov said.

“Maybe they made some mistakes and we only score goals from penalties, so our job is to score more.”

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