Alexander Geynrikh's performances at the FIFA U-20 World Cup UAE 2003 left Uzbekistanis confident they had unearthed a future senior national team stand-out. There, despite Uzbekistan's first-phase elimination, the lively forward scored two spectacular goals and proved a handful for the defences of Argentina, Mali and Spain.
It did not take Geynrikh long to make the breakthrough. He made his debut for Uzbekistan at senior level during the AFC Asian Cup China 2004 and quickly established himself as a fixture in the side, forming a formidable partnership with Dynamo Kiev's long-serving marksman, Maksim Shatskikh.
A trio of foreign coaches - namely Jurgen Dede, Bob Houghton and Valeri Nepomniatchi - had placed their faith in Geynrikh, but when Rauf Inileyev assumed the reins in 2007, he was relegated to the role of substitute. But after a loss of form, the 23-year-old has rediscovered his touch and the bright future that seemingly beckoned following UAE 2003 has again raised hope among Uzbekistanis.
Struggles in Russia
Following his impressive showing at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, Geynrikh was signed by CSKA Moscow. However, the transfer did not bear fruit for the player, who made just two appearances in two years before crossing the Russian capital to Torpedo Moscow, where he again failed to make his mark.
"Alexander is going through a difficult time of his playing career," Alisher Nikimbaev, head of Uzbekistan's national team administration, explained to FIFA.com at the time. "But this doesn't mean he is not a talented player and he only needs a bit more time to get back to his best form."
And that is something that he has managed following a return to Pakhtakor on loan in 2007. Back in his homeland, Geynrikh was soon back on the goals trail and this prompted Inileyev to include him in his Asian Cup 2007 squad.
In Uzbekistan's final group game, Geynrikh rose from the bench to cap a fine display with the clinching goal in a 3-0 win over China PR - a result which took them the Uzbekistanis into the quarter-finals at their opponents' expense. "We knew we had to win to progress so we just tried to attack and score goals and fortunately we made the right substitutions at the right time," said Inileyev, citing the introduction of Geynrikh at half-time as a reason for their success. "
It proved to be a good choice to bring on Geynrikh and we all saw how he performed today
That goal is, however, the last Geynrikh scored for Uzbekistan, a disappointing statistic for a player with so much to live up to. He struggled after the continental finals and even failed to make Inileyev's 18-man squad for Uzbekistan's first three 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifiers.
But Uzbekistan's 3-0 defeat of Saudi Arabia in their last preliminary game on 26 March marked Geynrick's return to fold, and although he failed to score after replacing Server Djeparov in the second half, he did his hopes of a future call-up no harm at all.
Geynrikh has since then scored three times for Pakhtakor, the first of which coming in their 5-1 win over Iraqi side Arbil in the AFC Champions League on 23 April. Only four days later he was on target again, sealing a 2-0 reverse of Metallurg in an Uzbekistani league match, and his latest goal arrived on 1 May when he opened the scoring from the penalty spot as Pakhtakor beat Mavbakhor 3-0.
"Alexander is doing well with Pakhtakor and as long as he continues his good work, his efforts will pay off soon." Nikimbaev told FIFA.com.