Uzbekistan coach Rauf Inileyev believes that the five U-23 players that he has selected for his AFC Asian Cup squad could play a significant role in this month’s continental championship.
While Inileyev has included eight veterans of the 2004 Asian Cup campaign including Server Djeparov, Timur Kapadze and Alexander Geynrikh, the former Uzbek Olympic team coach has opted for a fairly youthful squad with only one player, goalkeeper Pavel Bugalo, having already celebrated his 30th birthday.
Five of them - defenders Aziz Ibragimov, Anzur Islamilov and Vitaliy Denisov, midfielder Aziz Haydarov and forward Marat Bikmaev - are under the age of 23 and were members of the team which played in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers earlier this year.
"We have quite a few members of our Olympic team here and I think we are one of the youngest sides at this tournament," said Inileyev on Saturday, just a day after the team’s arrival in Kuala Lumpur for their Group C matches.
"However, the veterans and the U-23 players are getting along well and I feel that atmosphere in the team is very good as we have our goals and we want to pursue them."
"We are a very united team and the players are ready to battle to achieve success here."
Inileyev’s main concern on Saturday afternoon was the humid climate in the Malaysian capital, which could take some getting used to for his players.
"We are not yet used to the humid conditions here as we only arrived in KL on Friday evening.
"We has some physical workouts at the gym and at the pool but we have yet to have a training session outdoors so we don’t know have a definite idea of what to expect yet.
"We had a very good training camp in Korea before travelling here but while it was just as hot there, the humidity here makes things very different for us.
"But we can’t change the weather and I don’t think it will be a problem for us once we start the tournament. Whatever happens, we will try to do our best and battle hard for the victory."