Shootout shatter U-19 team's dream

Uzbekistan booked their place in the semi-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship 2012 when they defeated the U-19 Syrian national team 3-0 on penalties after their quarter-final on Sunday finished 2-2 after extra-time.

Syria twice took the lead in regulation time but where twice pegged back With Igor Sergeev's 44th minute strike cancelling out Hamid Mido's 39th minute opener only for Syria to regain the advantage on the stroke of half-time through an Mahmoud Al Mawas penalty.

Syria held their 2-1 lead until the 76th minute when Ihtiyor Tashpulatov scored the goal that ultimately forced extra-time.

 Neither side could add to the shoreline in the two periods of additional time forcing the penalty shootout, in which Syria missed all three attempts while the Uzbeks were successful on each occasion to advance to the final four and book their place at the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup.

The first chance of Sunday's quarter-final came the way of the Uzbeks when Abdul Aziz Yusupov headed Igor Sergeev's cross from the left against the post before Uzbek keeper Asilbek Amanov kept out Adnan Al Taki's shot from an Al Mawas free-kick as Syria hit back two minutes later.

Amanov was called into action again five minutes later to deny Al Mawas after the Syrian striker had latched onto a long ball while at the other end Yusupov's saw his attempt go over the bar on the quarter-of-the-hour mark.

A minute later Amanov pushed away Nassouh Nakkdahli's shot from the left before Yusupov squandered a 21st minute opportunity with only keeper Shaher Al Shakir, who kept out a Vladimir Kozak free-kick nine minutes from the interval.


The deadlock was finally broken in the 39th minute when Hamid Mido fired home the rebound after Amanov had saved Nakkdahli's initial shot.

But in a dramatic end to the first-half Sergeev headed home from a corner minute from the interval only for Al Mawas to equal Sergeev's tournament-leading sixth goal of the campaign when he converted from the penalty spot after Sardar Rakhmanov had brought Al Taki down inside the area.

Al Taki saved well from Timur Khakimov 11 minutes after the restart as Uzbekistan pushed for the equaliser which came with just under 15 minutes remaining when substitute Ihtiyor Tashpulatov rose highest in a crowded penalty area to head in Iskanderov's free-kick from the right.

Uzbekistan finished regulation time the stronger of the two but it was the Syrians that came close to snatching a winner in the 84th minute but Amanov denied Nakkdahli's shot from outside the area.

Both sides had their chances in extra-time with Amanov saving from substitute Samer Salem in the 95th minute before the move was mirrored at the other end of the pitch when Al Shakir denied Uzbek replacement Azizbek Murotov two minutes later.

Omar Kharbin tested his luck in the 103rd minute but his shot went wide of the post before the striker had an effort blocked a minute after a Salem header hit the bar as the Uzbeks survived some sustained Syria pressure in the last two minutes of extra-time.

And the Syrians were left to rue these late misses in the penalty shootout with Vladimir Kozak, Sardor Sabirkhodjaev and Timur Khakimov all on target for the Uzbeks while Ahmad Al Kaddour and Al Mawas were denied by Aminov and Khaled Al Mbayed struck the bar with his spot-kick.

Fans can spur us to success says Syria boss


The U-19 Syrian national head coach Mohammed Jouma is hoping that the sizeable contingent of Syrians based in the UAE will come out and back his team as they take on Uzbekistan in Sunday's AFC U-19 Championship quarter-final.

The young Syrians were taken by surprise by the number of their compatriots in the crowd at in the Fujairah Stadium stands on Thursday and Jouma believes that it may have had an unsettling effect on his side as they crashed to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of their Qatari counterpart as they finished runners-up to Australia in Group D.

But with the Syrian players knowing what to expect on Sunday, Jouma anticipates a different reaction from his young charges, with the fans potentially inspiring his team to victory over the Uzbeks and with it, a place at next year's FIFA U-20 World Cup.

"The presence of the large numbers of Syrian supporters working in the UAE in our last match distracted the players," he said.

"But we are not expecting the same reaction on Sunday and this time they will spur on our players as they will now be used to playing in front of a huge number of fans.

"We are not scared of losing and I would like to assure Syrians fans that you will be watching good, attractive and attacking football from our side.

"Uzbekistan came here to win just as we did and with a place in the World Cup at stake Sunday's match will be like a final."

Syria have been one of the revelations of the tournament but performing consistently is the big problem for the West Asians. They kicked off the campaign with a bang hitting five past Saudi Arabia and held 2010 AFC U-19 Championship runners-up Australia to a draw in the second match before falling a little bit flat as they rounded off their group stage campaign against Qatar.

One positive note from the match was the consolation goal from Mahmoud Al Mawas, whose 68th minute penalty took his individual tally to five in three games following his strike against the Young Socceroos and his hat-trick in his virtuoso display in the 5-1 win over Saudi Arabia.

Al Mawas' five goals is equal to Uzbekistan star Igor Sergeev and with the tournament's top two marksmen going head-to-head at the Fujairah Stadium Sunday's showdown could be a high-scoring affair.

After eliminating the defending champions DPR Korea from the tournament, Uzbekistan have been earmarked as one of the favourites for the AFC U-19 Championship as the Central Asians look to complete a continental youth double after their triumph at the AFC U-16 Championship.

Uzbekistan coach Akhmadjan Musaev, however, is taking nothing for granted ahead of the clash with the unpredictable Syrians.

Uzbekistan started the tournament with a 4-0 win over Vietnam but were held to a 2-2 draw by a spirited Jordan side in the second match. Their performance of the tournament came on Thursday when they produced a master-class performance to beat DPR Korea 2-0, with goals from tournament's joint leading scorer Sergeev and Timur Khakimov.

"There is no difference between the eight teams in the quarter-finals and we all have aspirations to win the title," Musaev said.

"After winning the AFC U-16 Championship title and performing excellently in this competition so far people are seeing that work that we are doing in grassroots football back home.

"We have seen Uzbek football coming up over the years and we have high hopes on this crop of players as we have a very talented team, many of who can go on and play at the highest level.

"But having said that, I am not expecting an easy match against Syria. They have produced some stunning results in this competition."

Jouma: tasting defeat is not so bad


The U-19 Syrian national team coach Mohammed Jouma took a pragmatic approach to his side's 2-1 loss to Qatar in their final group stage match of the AFC U-19 Championship insisting that it was a good lesson for the players ahead of the tournament's knockout phase.

 Qatar took the lead against the run of play a minute from the interval courtesy of Ahmed Alaeddin, who then doubled his side's advantage three minutes into the second-half before Syria striker Mahmoud Al Mawas reduced the deficit with a 67th minute penalty.

"The players tasted the defeat today which is not bad as this defeat is not considered crucial at this stage," Jouma (pictured) said at the post-match press conference.

"I congratulate Qatar for their win but for us we couldn't score from the chances we created. After Qatar scored twice and we had a player sent off the players lost their focus.

"These are young players and maybe today they were affected by the big crowd as well as the two goals of Qatar."

 The defeat proved not to be too detrimental to Syria as Saudi Arabia's 1-1 draw with Australia in the other Group D match kicking-off simultaneously over in Ras Al Khaimah saw the Syrians finish second in the standings behind the Young Socceroos.

 "We will prepare well for the quarter final match. We still have a mission to reach the World Cup.

"We don't think about the opponent team in the next match, we must be ready for any team."


AFC U-19 Championship-Syria advanced to the quarter-finals

The U-19 Syrian national team  advanced to the quarter-finals of the AFC U-19 Championship despite losing 2-1 to Qatar as Group D reached its conclusion on Thursday.

Qatar took the lead against the run of play a minute from the interval courtesy of Ahmed Alaeddin, who then doubled his side's advantage three minutes into the second-half before Syria striker Mahmoud Al Mawas reduced the deficit with a 67th minute penalty.

The defeat proved not to be too detrimental to Syria as Saudi Arabia's drawing 1-1 with Australia in the other Group D match kicking-off simultaneously over in Ras Al Khaimah seeing the Syrians finish second in the standings behind the Young Socceroos.

The first chance of the match came the way of the Syrians with four minutes played but Omar Kharbin's header was easily gathered by Qatar keeper Muhannad Naim.

Syria dominated possession with Qatar's well-organised defence limited their chances on goal until the half-hour mark when Naim made hard work of Al Mawas' shot from outside the area before Khaled Al Mbayed headed just wide following a 40th minute free-kick from the left.

But against the run of play it was Qatar, who had nothing but pride to play for after losing their first two matches, who took the lead when Alaaeddin converted Abdelkarim Hassan's dangerous cross from the left with 60 seconds of the first-half remaining.

Syria sought to get back into the game as quickly as possible and just one minute after the restart with Naim clearing the danger after an Al Mawas free-kick reached Kharbin.

Qatar responded two minutes later with their second goal and again it came from Alaaeddin when he flicked the ball in to the Syria net following Ahmed Yasser's cross from the left.

Syria's hopes of getting back into the match were dealt a blow in the 61st minute when Moayad Al Khouli was sent off after receiving a second yellow card before Qatar defender Ahmed Yasser cleared the danger after Samer Salem had only Naim to beat.

Despite their numerical disadvantage Syria reduced the deficit in the 67th minute when Al Mawas confidently converted from the penalty spot after Yasser had handled Abd Alelah Hfean.

Alaaeddin and Al Mawas both had further chances but the score remained 2-1 in favour of Syria, who squeezed into the quarter-finals ahead of Saudi Arbia.

Ronaldo admits perceived arrogance has cost him

Cristiano Ronaldo believes his "arrogant" image has prevented him from capturing the hearts of football fans across the globe.

In an exclusive interview with CNN, the Real Madrid forward reveals how his onfield demeanor has left him sitting in the shadow of the sport's golden boy and fans' favorite, Lionel Messi.

 "I don't want to cry about it, but sometimes I think yes," said Ronaldo after being asked whether his image had cost him in the past.

"It's a question to which I never give the 100% right answer, because sometimes I really don't know.

"I don't think it's allowed for people to change my personality.

"Maybe sometimes, I agree that I have a bad image on the pitch because I'm too serious."

Ronaldo and Messi will go head-to-head for the prestigious Ballon d'Or in January, with the Barcelona star having won the award on each of the previous three occasions.

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 Both men have taken the sport to a new level with their record goalscoring feats -- Ronaldo has scored an astonishing 164 times in 160 appearances for the Spanish champions, while Messi hit 50 in La Liga alone last term.

 Ronaldo, who won the Ballon d'Or in 2008 when at Manchester United, led Madrid to the league title last season and has scored in his past six successive El Clasicos.

The 27-year-old Portugal star is unhappy with how he's often portrayed in the media compared to more "loveable" Messi and says he has become a "victim."

"But if you really know me, if you are my friend and I leave you inside my house and you share the day with me, you will know I hate to lose," he said.

 "I learn by my mistakes and that's life. You know, sometimes I'm a victim of that because they don't know the real Cristiano.

"But, this is part of the life. This is me."

While Messi often plays with a smile on his face like a kid in the schoolyard, Ronaldo is often seen moaning, gesticulating and scowling while trying to inspire Real to victory.

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 But he insists that his competitive nature should not be mistaken for arrogance.

 "I was in the swimming pool with my girlfriend and sometimes we like to have a race," he said.

 "Sometimes you have to give her an opportunity to be happy but I win because I don't like to lose.

 "It's simple like that. Can you imagine me on the pitch playing against players, playing against other teams, it's not allowed to let them win.

"I'm a competitive man and sometimes people interpret that in a different way, which is a pain on me because I don't like it, but I have to live."

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 While many sports stars are keen to stay clear of their critics, Ronaldo is keen to embrace his and attempt to transform their opinions in the future.

"People who call me arrogant, I'm interested -- not with all of them, but most of them," he added.

 "One day I would like to sit with them and have a chat to see in which way they think I'm arrogant.

 "You know, to have a chat, in a nice place and for them to get to know me, you understand?

 "Because I think they need to sit with me to know who the real Cristiano is."