Uzbekistan Set Up Oman Olympic Showdown

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Uzbekistan and Oman will face off on Thursday for the right to meet Senegal for a place at the 2012 Olympic Games after the Central Asians ended Syria’s hopes of advancing from Asia’s three team play-off by recording a 2-1 victory at My Dinh Stadium on Tuesday.

With Oman drawing Sunday’s event opener against Syria, Uzbekistan know a point will be enough to advance to face Senegal in Coventry next month after second half goals from Kenja Turaev and substitute Oleg Zoteev ended Syria’s hopes in Hanoi.

Bahrain-based defender Yasser Shahen had opened thes coring for Syria with a well-taken lob after 14 minutes after Rui Almeida’s side had snatched a point against Oman thanks to a dramatic stoppage time equaliser from substitute Ahmad Al Douni at the weekend.

But Kenja Turaev equalized with a 73rd minute header for Uzbekistan before second half substitute Oleg Zoteev struck with two minutes remaining to set-up Thursday’s decisive showdown (7pm kick-off) with Oman as both sides chase a maiden appearance at the Olympic Games.

"This was a very tough match and I thank the players who changed the game and kept alive our chances,” said 49-year-old Uzbekistan coach Vadim Abramov, who has also led the national team to the fourth round of qualifiers for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

"I think playing two games with only 48 hours recovery affected Syria."

Opposite number Rui Almeida, meanwhile, remained upbeat despite the decisive defeat as Syria fell short of following up their impressive third round Group Stage performance, which included handing Japan their only defeat of the campaign.

"We planned this game well and controlled the match for 85, 86 minutes, but we lost the goal in the last five minutes because maybe our defensive line was very tired," said Almeida.

"We played very well against a strong Uzbekistan team who caused us a lot of problems in the last half hour. They took their chances and we were caught out late in the game.

"I want to congratulate my players as all the players in the group have been working very hard for the past year and a half.

"Of course, it is very disappointing for all the players who have worked long and hard. It's disappointing for the players, the coaches and the officials but we look to the future. It's not just about the results; it's about working to prepare a team for future tournaments."

Either Uzbekistan or Oman will face Senegal, who lost 2-0 to Egypt in the third place play-off at the inaugural CAF U-23 Championship last year, at the City of Coventry Stadium on April 23 for the final place in the 16-team football tournament in London.

Third round group winners Korea Republic, Japan and United Arab Emirates will represent Asia in London, with hosts Great Britain, Gabon, Morocco, Egypt, Belarus, Switzerland, Spain, New Zealand, Brazil and Uruguay also already certain of a place in the July 24 draw with the two representatives from the CONCACAF region set to be decided on Saturday.


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