Uzbekistan
© AFP

The past
Admitted to FIFA in 1994, Uzbekistan have featured at two FIFA U-20 World Cups, firstly at UAE 2003, and most recently at Egypt 2009 where they went out in the group phase following losses to Ghana and Uruguay, and a 1-1 draw with England. That success in reaching the finals in 2009 triggered the overhaul of the country’s training infrastructure, with Uzbekistan since impressing at youth level, finishing runners-up at the AFC Asian U-16 Championship in 2010, thus qualifying for the FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011.

The present
With the full national team currently fighting it out for a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™, the U-19 side will attempt to keep the Uzbek flag flying high at Turkey 2013. The young Uzbeks certainly impressed in qualifying, cruising through the preliminary phase of the AFC U-19 Asian Championship with three wins and a solitary defeat and then topping a group containing defending Asian champions Korea DPR, Jordan and Vietnam at the finals proper. Next up came Syria in the quarter-finals, with Uzbekistan twice coming from behind to force a penalty shoot-out, which they won 3-0. Their place in Turkey secured, they then went down 3-1 to eventual champions Korea Republic in the semis.

The future
Coach Musaev Akhmadjan has been getting the very best out of an exciting crop of young players, who impressed at the U-19 Asian Championship with their power, technique and selfless team play. Akhmadjan has had no qualms about calling on some of the players who appeared with the U-17s at Mexico 2011, and his forward thinking has been rewarded with the country’s third appearance at the FIFA U-20 World Cup. Should his young charges perform to their potential, they are well capable of progressing beyond the first round in Turkey.