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Australia confident ahead of Uzbek test

sports Updated: Jan 24, 2011 17:43 IST

AFP
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Australia go into their Asian Cup semi-final against Uzbekistan on Tuesday relaxed and confident that they can give themselves a shot at lifting the first silverware in their history.

Both teams will be treading new ground at the Al Khalifa Stadium.

Neither has got this far at the continental showpiece before, with the prospect of a final against either Japan or South Korea awaiting the winner.

Socceroos coach Holger Osieck is certain his team will be in that match on January 29.

"We are pretty happy to be where we are today. We have two more matches to go and this is the first of them," said the German.

"That means we are in the latter stages of the tournament and that is good for us and I'm pretty sure we will still be here on the 29th of January."

Although key midfielder Jason Culina has had to head home for treatment on a knee injury, Australia were boosted on Monday by news that Everton star Tim Cahill is fit after picking up a knock in their quarter-final win over Iraq.

Holger said he would definitely play and said he was thankful that he has the services of a man with plenty of big-match experience.

Asked if Australia were feeling the pressure ahead of facing an Uzbek side that has been impressive in Doha despite their lowly world ranking of 108, Olger said it wasn't an issue.

"We don't really feel pressure, instead there's always a kind of excitement," he said.

"It will be an interesting and challenging game but I don't think there is real pressure because we know what we can do.

"We have our plans and I know our boys have the ability to transfer that to the pitch.

"Of course it helps that some players have played major tournaments and big games with their club sides."

His captain Lucas Neill said there had never been a better time for Australia to win a major title.

"This is a great opportunity to win a title, a trophy, and I don't think we ever been able to say that as a nation before," he said.

"We have had enough experience now in tournaments that we concentrate on one game at a time so we get a shot at the title.

"We have won the right to host the 2015 Asian Cup and it would be great to do that as defending champions."

Nothing, though, is guaranteed against Uzbekistan, who beat hosts Qatar and then Kuwait before drawing with China in the group stage.

A battling 2-1 win over Jordan in the last eight put them into the semi-finals for the first time in their history, and coach Vadim Abramov said they can go all the way.

"Before we came to this tournament I said we could win and there is no change to that," he said.

"I hope my players concentrate, it's their chance. We can win, why not? Before we start the game, all teams are the same. If Japan can beat Argentina then why can't we beat Australia?"

Abramov was referring to Japan upsetting a full-strength Argentina 1-0 in a friendly in October, a match that marked the debut of Alberto Zaccheroni as the East Asian powerhouse's new coach.

Uzbekistan have no injury worries going into Tuesday's make-or-break encounter and centre-back Odil Akhmedov said the team would only be happy if they win the tournament.

"We are happy we got to the semi-finals, but we are not going to stop here," he said. "We're going to go to the final and get the cup."

The two sides have played each other twice before, in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, with Australia coming out on top both times.