The strongest among Central Asia's four former Soviet republics, Uzbekistan are by far the best equipped to mount a significant challenge for a FIFA World Cup™ berth. Since joining the AFC in 1994, they have reached the final stage of Asian qualifying on all four occasions. However, they have developed a reputation as one of Asia's under-achievers, having stumbled when it mattered on several occasions.
The current crop
The erratic results continued at January's AFC Asian Cup, albeit after an impressive campaign. After getting off to a bright start which saw them finish group winners ahead of hosts Qatar and China PR, the Uzbeks overcame Jordan 2-1 to storm into the last four for the first time. However, Uzbekistan capitulated by conceding six unanswered goals against Australia in the semi-final to crash out unceremoniously. Brazil 2014 beckons as the Central Asians embark on their fifth attempt for the global showpiece. As expected, they eased past Kyrgyzstan 7-0 on aggregate to make it to Asia’s third qualifying round, where they are aiming to make history by booking their first-ever qualification for the FIFA World Cup.
The key players
Uzbekistan boast some of Asia’s most gifted and elite footballing talent. Maksim Shatskikh remains in his goalscoring prime despite now being 33-years-old, while his attacking partner Alexander Geynrikh has developed into a reliable predator. Former AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov is an exceptional talent in the heart of midfield and possesses exquisite dead-ball skills.
Coach: Mirjalol Qosimov
Best performance in a FIFA competition: FIFA U-17 World Cup Mexico 2011 (Quarter-finals)
Former stars: Mirjalol Qosimov, Nikolai Shirshov