Uzbekistan have participated in Asia's qualifying for the past five FIFA World Cups™. As the strongest team from Central Asia, the former soviet republic made it to the final qualifying round on each occasion only to stumble at the last hurdle. The closest they came was on the road to Germany 2006, when they lost to Bahrain on away goals and thus missed out on the AFC–CONCACAF play-off against Trinidad and Tobago.
Uzbekistan enter qualifying for Russia 2018 aiming to brush aside their tag as the continent's perennial under-achievers, and the team's line-up - featuring some of Asia's on-song stars - offers plenty of hope. The most notable of those stars is, of course, two-time AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov, who captained his side through to the final qualifying round for the past two World Cups. Guarding the net is the vastly experienced Ignatiy Nesterov, who boasts 90 international caps, while Timur Kapadze bosses the midfielder alongside Djeparov. Shouldering the goalscoring responsibility will be two promising strikers in Sardor Rashidov and Igor Sergeev, both of whom excelled as the Uzbeks reached the knockout stage at the 2015 AFC Asian Cup.
Mirjalol Qosimov resigned in the wake of Uzbekistan's unexpected 4-2 loss to Korea DPR in their opening qualifier. Filling the void left by the Uzbek legend is Pakhtakor's head coach, Samvel Babayan, himself no stranger to the fans due to his contributions with both club and country. The 44-year-old was a member of the management team that led the national side at the 2004 and 2007 AFC Asian Cups, as well as in qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™. At club level, he took Pahtakor to their tenth Uzbekistan league title in 2014, surviving the entire season unbeaten.
1 - Uzbekistan made their presence strongly felt in their continental debut as they took the 1994 Asian Games football tournament by storm, winning gold - the only title they have claimed in all competitions.
The former stars
Igor Shkvyrin, Mirjalol Qosimov, Shukhrat Maqsudov