“Tomorrow we will play against a strong side. We have been working on quality of play lately and have managed to improve in some components. Tomorrow we will try to show our best game”, Uzbekistan head coach Samvel Babayan said on Wednesday at pre-match press conference.
Marcello Lippi’s taking reign had a positive impact on the team’s play. We watched their last games, and they added quality to their game. We will witness an interesting clash tomorrow.
Uzbekistan head coach Samvel Babayan noted that though China have seen a huge change in their soccer in recent months, attracting three Uzbek players to the Chinese Super League, they've already had "enough information" on the Chinese national team.
"China has become the center of world football. All the things happening here have a huge impact on the national team of China ... In short, they are progressing," said Babayan.
He underlined Thursday's match is important to both sides, and said he will not think about their final qualifier before the end of Thursday's duel.
"No matter if you have the chance [to qualify] or not, if you are wearing the national team jersey, you have to do the best on the pitch," the 46-year-old said on both teams' chances of qualification.
China's national soccer team head coach Marcello Lippi said Wednesday they are well-prepared for Thursday's match against Uzbekistan, as the team face a do-or-die situation in their World Cup qualification campaign.
"At the moment we still have the chance to qualify; we will try our best to get three points," the 62-year-old veteran Italian coach told a press conference in Wuhan, Hubei Province.
"There are two matches remaining; we can't give up. With the same players, we have played together four matches, and we did better than before."
Lippi was named head coach of China in October, when they failed to grab a single win after four qualifying games and were languishing at the bottom of the group.
Under his guidance, China achieved a sensational win over longtime rivals South Korea in March.
Now, though China are still in the same position in the group, their fans have applauded the obvious improvement in their play.
"I am satisfied with the big improvement of the team; we hope to achieve the best result we want," Lippi added. "The problem is we weren't so lucky, we should have won some more games."
China were kept to a scoreless draw at home to Qatar in November and an injury-time goal from Syria's Al Salih denied China's 2-1 lead in June. Lippi said his side had performed better in both those games than in the one against the Taegeuk Warriors.
Lippi, who masterminded his home country's triumph at the 2006 World Cup, also noted that the players are very focused on Thursday's match after spending six days in Wuhan, and said the squad is confident for the game.
But their bottom position means China need to win both remaining matches if they want to keep their flickering World Cup hopes alive, and hope Uzbekistan and Syria grab as few points as possible in their remaining games.
China sit 77th in the latest FIFA rankings - eighth in Asia - while visitors Uzbekistan are 64th in the world. China suffered a 2-0 loss away to Uzbekistan in the previous meeting between the two sides in October 2016 in Tashkent.
The team's morale is high, agreed captain Zheng Zhi, but he warned his teammates not to be complacent over the difficulty of the qualification games.
"It's our last home game," said the Guangzhou Evergrande midfielder. "From the previous qualifiers we know the series is not easy, but we have to be focused on the match and try our best to win the game to pay tribute to the enthusiastic fans."
China will need goals if they want to lift themselves off the bottom of the group and into third place for a playoff spot. They have only scored five goals, but conceded nine.
Uzbekistan, a physically strong side in Asian soccer, are hoping to grab a point before heading back home to host South Korea.