Kazimov: North Korea won’t be easy opponents

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national team coach Mirjalol Kasimov on Friday emphasised his country’s aims of a top finish in the as they prepared for Saturday’s group stage opener against North Korea.

The White Wolves are looking to improve on their fourth-place finish in 2011, but the manager insisted that his side is focused on the future, not the past.

“Four years ago is history,” Kasimov told reporters at the Stadium Australia in Sydney. “It’s not our first time participating in this tournament and we want to achieve more.

“Like all participating teams we have our goals, and we want to play beautiful football.”

Uzbekistan’s first opponent will be North Korea, who finished fourth in 1980 but did not escape the group stage in Qatar.

“[Saturday’s match] won’t be easy because North Korea have always preferred to play defensively and rely on the counterattack,” Kasimov said. “It’s the same with all their teams, and we saw that in Myanmar [at the AFC Under-19 Championships) when they reached the finals.

“It won’t be easy to play against them, but I believe in my players and they will do their best to score.”

Following Saturday’s match in Sydney, Uzbekistan will face China on January 14 in Brisbane before ending the group stage against Saudi Arabia on January 18 in Melbourne.