Sri Lanka will be up for a daunting task when they take on Uzbekistan in their opening Group C match of the AFC Asian Cup qualifiers 2023 today at the Markaziy Stadium in Namangan.
Led by custodian Sujan Perera, the Golden Army were seen playing a positive brand of football throughout the recent past tournaments, and if they are to stop the rampaging Uzbekistan forwards, they will once again need to raise the tempo and attack to smoothly overcome their opponents. The confidence of the Sri Lankan players has definitely received a boost, and they would love to act as the party spoilers for favourites, Uzbekistan.
After inspirational performances during the four-nation tournament in 2021 and despite going down fighting in the final, surely a future can be recreated, and at the very least, from the way things are beginning to look, fairly certain that we can expect great surges forward in the world of Sri Lankan football.
Sri Lanka midfield can devise a way not only to stop their opponents, but to do damage in the wide channels through the inspirational Mohamed Aakib and his full- backs, and then reap the rewards.
Aakib’s experience will be key in the all-important fixture. In pressure situations he can step up and lead the team from the front. Aakib has already proven he can still step up and score goals when opportunity arises, and will be hoping to link up with young Dillon de Silva.
Uzbekistan are the highest-ranked side in the group, which also features Thailand and the Maldives, and are the favourites to secure a direct passage into the finals.
Srečko Katanec’s side have been shaping up well for their qualifying campaign, winning all three of their games in 2022 thus far.
They started off the year with a 3-0 demolition of South Sudan, followed by a 3-1 defeat of Kyrgyzstan and a 4-2 drubbing of Uganda in the Navruz Cup.
Uzbekistan and Sri Lanka have met just once – in the 1999 Asia Cup, which the Uzbeks comfortably won 6-0.
SL Squad: Sujan Perera (Captain), Mohamed Fazal, Chalana Chameera, Charitha Rathnayake, Harsha Fernando, Asikur Rahuman, Ruwan Arunasiri, Jude Suman, Chathuranga Madushan, Mohamed Aakib, Chamod Dilshan, Dillon de Silva, Mohamed Shifan, Kaveesh Fernando, Mariyathas Nitharshan, Abdul Basith, Afeel Mohamed, Shabeer Razooniya, Sasanga Dilhara, Aman Faizer, Shenal Sandesh, Sebastianpillai Jesuthasan, Tharmakulanathan Kajakopan
By Mustaq Sydeen