Ravshan Khaydarov has predicted a bright future for his team after leading Uzbekistan to a 1-0 victory over Iraq in the final of the 2023 AFC U-20 Asian Cup Uzbekistan on Saturday in front of the host nation’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev at a sold-out Bunyodkor Stadium.
Captain Umarali Rakhmonaliev scored from the penalty spot 18 minutes from time to earn the title for Uzbekistan as the inspirational Khaydarov added the AFC U20 Asian Cup to the AFC U23 Asian Cup trophy he won for his nation in China in 2018.
“It’s the first final for my players and they adapted well,” the coach said of his team’s ability to perform in front of an expectant crowd. “When you play in a full stadium you have to adapt, enjoy it and play with responsibility.
“Our president came to the stadium to see our game and that’s why some of the players might have been excited, but we have enough experience to deal with that and we have to adapt to these moments.”
Uzbekistan dominated throughout the opening 45 minutes with striker Asadbek Juraboev missing a trio of opportunities to give his side the lead and satisfy the crowd of almost 34,000 packed into Bunyodkor Stadium.
The atmosphere grew increasingly tense in the second half as Ali Jassim threatened to give Iraq the upper hand before Uzbek winger Abbosbek Fayzullaev was upended in the penalty area by Sajjad Mohammed.
Rakhmonaliev coolly rolled his penalty down the middle with goalkeeper Hussein Hasan diving to his right to finally break the deadlock and move Uzbekistan towards victory.
“It’s my second trophy,” said Khaydarov. “Uzbekistan had won the AFC under 17 and under 23 trophies and now we have the under 20 trophy and we’re very happy because we have worked for this. But I think we have to continue working like this and try to improve our game.
“We have been preparing for a long time,” he added. “We have had a lot of support from our fans, they gave us extra power. We played for 120 minutes (in the semifinal against South Korea) and had a short time to recover.
“These players have a very beautiful future. Maybe they made some mistakes and we’re only scoring goals from penalties, so our mission is to score more.”
Rakhmonaliev’s goal was only the second scored by an Uzbek player in the last four matches and the captain gave credit to his teammates after netting the decisive spot-kick.
“I had to score for my team,” he said. “When I took this penalty, when I hit it I was concentrating on what I had to do and Allah gave us this trophy. It’s not only my work, it’s because of team work and that’s why I had to score this penalty.
“I have to thank our fans who supported us in the stadium and we celebrate this trophy with them. We have to participate in the FIFA U-20 World Cup and we’re trying to prepare for this tournament. We gave our all here and I think in the FIFA U-20 World Cup we will try to do our best as well.”