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KSA continues Cup journey
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 26 - 03 - 2008

Saudi Arabia faces a task against Uzbekistan in the Asian qualifying match for the World Cup Finals in Tashkent Wednesday.
According to Saudi national team coach Brazilin Dos Anjos the Group D match at MHSK Stadium would not be easy for the two sides. Anjos, who led the Green Falcons to the 2007 Asian Cup final said that Uzbekistan's game has developed and the team has become one of the strong contenders in the region.
“I have been following Uzbeks for a long time and I know their players very well. They have a wonderful squad and our match will be not easy,” Anjos said Monday.
Saudi Arabia, which is gunning for a fifth straight appearance in world Cup Finals, is determined to secure the top spot in the group.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan may be eager to avenge last year's Asian Cup quarterfinal defeat against Saudi Arabia when Saudis scotches their hopes to reach semifinals with a 2-1 victory in Jakarta last July.
The two sides share top spot after Saudi Arabia won its first match in the group with a 2-0 decision over Singapore in Riyadh last month. Uzbeks also kicked off their campaign with a 1-0 win over Lebanon in Beirut.
Although Uzbekistan has made waves in different Asian competitions for clubs and nations, the team has not beaten Saudi Arabia.
“I know they are looking for revenge and qualification ticket as well but we will not return home without a win,” Anjos said after the Saudi delegation arrived in Taskent Sunday.
Saudi team was forced to cancel the last minute friendly match against Albania last Friday after the Football Association of Albania was suspended by FIFA. Saudi struggled to get appointment with GCC teams too. Therefore Anjos was forced to cancel his plans and depended on a training camp in Dammam.
However, the general condition of the squad is very good and the players are raring to go.
International striker Malek Al-Hawsawi believes that the match will be an early final as the winner will jump to the top.
“The road will be difficult but as players, we like challenge and I am sure we will return home with three points,” Al-Hawsawi said.
Whatever be the result, both should progress as the remaining teams in the group Singapore and Lebanon failed in their first round matches.
Uzbekistan warmed-up for the match with a 4-1 friendly win over Jordan last Saturday. It will boost Uzbekistan's confidence.
Twenty Asian nations are still on the road to South Africa in 2010. The top two teams from each of the five four-team groups will progress to the final stage of continental qualification.
Rows over venues and anthems overshadow other qualifiers, when China host Australia and North and South Korea square off for a rare Cold War clash in Shanghai.
China's decision to play at altitude has irked Australia, while the two Koreas were forced onto neutral ground after the North said the South couldn't use their national flag or anthem in Pyongyang.
Heavyweights Japan travel to Bahrain and Asian champion Iraq is in Qatar in other highlights of the second set of matches.
Shanghai is the unlikely setting for the much-anticipated face-off between North and South Korea, only their third World Cup qualifier and the first since 1994.
World governing body FIFA ordered the venue change after communist North Korea, still officially at war with the South, refused to allow the South's flag or anthem in Pyongyang, suggesting a neutral flag and folk song instead.
New Iran coach Ali Daei will hope to turn around Team Melli's fortunes in his first competitive match, away to Kuwait.
Thailand faces Oman, Turkmenistan hosts Jordan, Singapore plays Lebanon and Syria is against the UAE in Wednesday's other fixtures. __

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