Qantas Joeys fully focused on defeating familiar foe

The odds may be stacked well against them, but the Qantas Joeys are determined and quietly confident of accounting for fellow AFC entrants Uzbekistan in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon (local time) in Torreon.

The odds may be stacked well against them, but the Qantas Joeys are determined and quietly confident of accounting for fellow AFC entrants Uzbekistan in the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 Round of 16 on Thursday afternoon (local time) in Torreon.

On top of confronting an Uzbekistan team that is riding high after finishing top of Group D, the Qantas Joeys must also overcome a number of other hurdles if they are make it into the last eight of the FIFA U-17 World Cup.

In the lead up to the encounter, of which the winner will move through to a quarter final appointment with either Congo or Uruguay while the loser say good-bye, the preparations of the Qantas Joeys and Uzbekistan could not be more different.

Torreon has become a home away from home for the Uzbeks. They have played all three of their games at the Estadio Torreon and are well acclimatised to the stadium, and more significantly to the heat. Furthermore, Uzbekistan has had since last Saturday to recover and prepare.

In contrast, the Qantas Joeys only arrived in Torreon on Monday night following their physically draining group match against Denmark in Queratero, which was postponed from Sunday to Monday due to inclement weather.

But while Qantas Joeys Head Coach Jan Versleijen acknowledges all of this tips the game into Uzbekistan-s favour, he has issued the differing preparations of the two teams as a challenge to his players to focus purely on what happens on the field.

“We haven-t spent much time here (in Torreon) but one thing for sure that we noticed were the hot conditions compared to the other places we have played in before coming here, so that for us is an additional challenge compared to Uzbekistan who have been here since the start of the tournament,” Versleijen said.

“Another challenge for us will be the days between our last game and tomorrow-s game, and that is also an advantage for the Uzbek team.”

“But I think our confidence and focus is very good. With the circumstances we have had, we have done as well as we possibly can and that-s something we-re also going to do in tomorrow-s game.”

“There are things you can-t change, and with the things you cannot change, you should not try to waste too much energy on them but rather try to focus on the football side. All of our concentration and all of our energy will be on the game and we-ll forget about all of the other things.”

Uzbekistan have also developed strong support from the locals in Torreon, but that does not worry Versleijen.

“We played against them (Uzbekistan) last year in Tashkent where we had to face 30,000 Uzbek supporters and on that occasion we were able to compete very well,” Versleijen said.

“I think it-s a challenge if you play in a stadium full of opposition supporters, that-s one of the learning experiences for young players.”

The game also presents the Qantas Joeys with a chance to avenge that loss to Uzbekistan in Tashkent in the semi finals of the AFC Championships last November. This time they will meet on the world stage in Mexico and the Qantas Joeys will be hoping they can turn the tables and send Uzbekistan packing.

Two players the Qantas Joeys will have to try and do it without are midfield duo Jesse Makarounas and Yianni Perkatis. Makarounas will miss the match with right hamstring soreness, while Perkatis is suspended after being sent off against Denmark.

Makarounas, who scored the stunning first goal against Côte d'Ivoire, has been hindered by the hamstring problem since the narrow loss to Brazil, and at this stage it is unclear how deep into the tournament the injury will keep him out for if the Joeys continue to progress.

Currently, Uzbekistan is second only to Cote D-Ivoire for shots at goal in the tournament, but on the flipside despite their first place finish in the group, they have conceded goals in each of their three games, including four in their one and only loss, against New Zealand.

Kick-Off is at 3:00pm local time (6:00am AEST, Friday 30 June 2011) and the match can be seen LIVE on SBS TV.

FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 - Round of 16 Qantas Joeys v Uzbekistan Thursday 29 June 2011, Estadio Torreon Kick-Off: 3:00pm local time (6:00am AEST, Monday 30 June) Referee: Victor Carrillo (Peru)

Qantas Joeys squad: 1.Paul IZZO (gk), 2.Jake MONACO, 3.Connor CHAPMAN (c), 4.Tom KING, 5.Corey BROWN, 6.Yianni PERKATIS, 7.Hernan ESPINDOLA, 8.Mitch COOPER, 9.Dylan TOMBIDES, 10.Jesse MAKAROUNAS, 11.Luke REMINGTON, 14.Milos DEGENEK, 15.Anthony PROIA, 16.Stefan MAUK, 17.Jacob MELLING, 18.Daniel SADAKA (gk), 19.Mitchell OXBORROW, 20.Nicholas ANSELL, 21.Riley WOODCOCK

Unavailable: 6.Yianni PERKATIS (suspended)

Uzbekistan squad: 1.Sergey SMORODIN (gk), 2.Mirzamurod JURABAEV, 3.Sardor RAKHMANOV, 4.Ravshanjon HAYDAROV, 5.Asiljon MANSUROV, 6.Abbosbek MAKHSTALIEV, 7.Azizbek MURATOV, 8.Sardor SABIRKHODJAEV, 9.Kholmurod KHOLMURODOV, 10.Nodirhon KAMOLOV, 11.Timur KHAKIMOV, 12.Ganisher KHOLMURODOV (gk), 13.Bobir DAVLATOV, 14.Javlon MIRABDULLAEV, 15.JAsurbek KHAKIMOV, 16.Khasan ASKAROV, 17.Dior USMANKHODJAEV, 18.Muhsinjon UBAYDULLAEV, 19.Zabikhillo URINBOEV, 20.Davlatbek YARBEKOV, 21.Abdumavlon ABDULJALILOV (gk)