Bahrain’s Olympic national soccer team will be seeking to boost their 2008 Beijing Olympics qualification hopes by picking up their third victory in four games when they host Uzbekistan tonight in a Group ’B’ match at 6pm at the National Stadium in Riffa. The Bahrainis remain in strong contention in this four-team group, trailing only three points behind unbeaten leaders South Korea who will play the Syrians today in an away match in Aleppo.
Coached by Ivan Hucko of Slovenia, Bahrain will be trying to build on their stunning 2-1 victory in Samarqand last month when a stoppage time goal by Hamad Faisal gave the Bahrainis their second away victory following another dramatic 2-1 win against Syria in their opening match.
Their only setback so far was a 0-1 home defeat to the Koreans, sandwiched between their two wins.
The Uzbeks have only one point from their three games thus far, a draw at home against Syria who also have an identical record.
Hucko believes that it will not be easy to beat the Central Asian side and keep alive their chances of qualifying for the Olympic soccer tournament for the first time.
"The game will be very hard because it will determine whether we will remain in contention or not. We must win the game although it will not be easy," said Hucko at a Press conference held last night at the Bahrain Football Association grounds in Riffa.
"Our players should forget about the previous match in Tashkent and should start thinking of tomorrow’s match. The Uzbeks are a tough team and they have several talented players," added the 42-year-old Slovenian.
"The game will be very hard on both teams as we both need three points to revive our chances in the qualifiers. We must all give our best and win because defeat could mean the end of our journey in the qualifiers," said Hucko who is also assistant coach of senior team coach Milan Macala.
Although Bahrain will miss the services of influential left back Faouzi Aaish through suspension after the midfielder received yellow cards in consecutive matches, captain Sayed Mohammed Jaffer is confident that the team can pull together and win tonight’s do-or-die match.
"I hope that we can win the match and I think that our group effort will be vital to help us in the game," said the 23-year-old goalkeeper.
Bahrain will be boosted by the return of three key players - midfielder Abdulla Fatai, strikers Jaycee John Ismail Abdullatif who plays for Kuwait’s premier division club Al Arabi.
"We respect Uzbekistan but at the same time we have a good team. The game is vital for both teams and the winners will have a good chance to qualify for the Olympic Games," said Jaffer.
Uzbekistan, who arrived on the island just 24 hours before the game with coach Vadim Abramov, are hoping to take advantage of their chances after missing a number of good opportunities in their defeat to the Bahrainis in Samarqand.
The Uzbeks will welcome back defenders Vagiz Galiulin and Farhod Tadjiyev who missed last month’s game against Bahrain through suspension.