Past defeats will aid Uzbeks against South Korea
The Uzbeks have only beaten the Koreans once in 11 meetings
Uzbekistan will harness the pain of almost two decades of frustration against South Korea to drive them to victory in their Asian Cup quarter-final on Thursday, coach Mirdjalal Kasimov said.
The Uzbeks have only beaten the Koreans once in 11 meetings, a 1-0 success in the semi-finals of the 1994 Asian Games in Japan where they went on to win gold.
Since then, South Korea have had the measure of their technically strong but mentally frail central Asian foes, a 2-1 World Cup qualifying win in 1997 kicking off a streak of eight victories and two draws.
The last meeting came in Seoul 18 months ago in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup.
Akmal Shorakhmedov scored an own goal as South Korea grabbed a precious 1-0 win in their penultimate qualifier that saw them edge out the Uzbeks by a single goal for an automatic berth.
Uzbekistan were forced into a showdown with Jordan with a spot in an intercontinental playoff at stake, but their last qualifying hope was extinguished when they lost on penalties after both legs finished 1-1.
Kasimov still feels the pain and expects a revenge win in Melbourne.
"We promise it and we want it," said the former midfielder, who was part of the 1994 Asian Games side and is in his second spell as coach.
"We always think about losing to Korea in the World Cup qualifiers and I think the players will do their best. It will be interesting."
A 3-1 win over Saudi Arabia in their final Group B game secured the Uzbeks the runners-up spot behind China.
They had taken an early lead only to be pegged back by the Saudis and looked in danger of throwing away another winning position as they did in a 2-1 loss to China.
But they regrouped and overcame the frustration of some questionable refereeing to run out deserved winners.
"It was one of the great wins in my opinion," Kasimov said.
"If we play like this in all the games, we will reach a high level."
However, South Korea have also been progressing since their disjointed 1-0 wins over Oman and Kuwait in their first two Group A games.
Injuries and illness swept through the squad but Uli Stielike's wounded side showed why they should not be discounted from winning a first Asian Cup since 1960, beating hosts Australia 1-0 in Brisbane to seal top spot.
Lee Jeong-hyeop has taken his chance to fill the striker void, while attacking midfielder Nam Tae-hee scored the winner against Kuwait and is a likely starter with first choice pair Koo Ja-cheol and Lee Chung-yong out with injury.
Question marks remain about the ever changing defense, despite three clean sheets, but momentum is building and the squad have all pitched in.
"We have some injuries but we have good players on the bench," skipper Ki Sung-yueng said.