Kuwait turn focus to the World Cup
Yesterday's defeat at the Al Gharafa Stadium means Kuwait, the reigning West Asian and Gulf Champions, have failed to pick up a single point from their first two Group A matches, leaving them precariously close to going out of the tournament.
A win against hosts Qatar in their final match would give them a glimmer of hope, but to have any chance of reaching the quarter-finals they would need China PR to lose their final group game against Uzbekistan.
Maksim Shatskikh's deflected free-kick had put Uzbekistan in front but a Bader Al Mutwa penalty in the 49th minute brought Kuwait back into the game. Vadim Abramov's side resumed control of the game when skipper Server Djeparov smashed home mid-way through the second half. Kuwait had a string of late chances to win the game but they were unable to make that crucial breakthrough.
"Our team is out, so we will try to beat Qatar and take our first three points in this competition," said a crestfallen Tufegdzic, who did not appear to realise that Kuwait still had a very slender chance of qualifying. "Our next target is to qualify for the World Cup. It's a big qualification competition for the World Cup and that is our next target."
Despite his disappointment, the Serbian coach, who took over from Mohammed Ibrahim in early 2009, insisted his side had a bright future ahead of them.
"You saw that we wasted many chances," he said. "Our team is very young and our average age is under 23. Our target was to reach the second round. You saw our players have the ambition to get a good result, but we lack experience. We had many chances and we couldn't take them. If you don't take chances, and then you concede a goal, it's very difficult."
Kuwait went into the tournament on the crest of a wave after ending a 12-year wait for silverware by winning the West Asian Championship and the Gulf Cup of Nations last year.
Expectations had been high that Al Azraq (The Blues) would reach the AFC Asian Cup final for the first time since their triumph as hosts in 1980, but Tufegdzic said the rigours of the competition may have been too much for his young team.
"The Asian Cup is high quality," he said. "There are teams from all over Asia and the football played is different, especially by China, Japan and Korea. It's a different style to the Gulf. Here there are more aggressive blocks, more aggressive defence, and I think it's a problem for the Gulf countries. Maybe you need a little luck. For the last two matches we had no luck."
Kuwait will not begin their qualifying campaign for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil until June at the earliest, but Tufegdzic admitted that his future as national coach was out of his hands in any case.