Rakhmatov: It would be a dream to play against Douglas

  • Anaskhon Rakhmatov's wonder goal sent Uzbekistan into the Round of 16

  • White Wolves beat Egypt on Saturday thanks to his stunning winner

  • The nation’s first ever FIFA Futsal World Cup win™

Preparation is everything. Scoring the perfect goals involves concentration, keeping your eyes fixed firmly on the ball, and striking it at exactly the right time, which is exactly what Uzbekistan’s Anaskhon Rakhmatov did when volleying home Mashrab Adilov’s teasing cross from the left against Egypt. Stationed 15 metres from goal on the other side of the court, Rakhmatov had only one thing on his mind as the ball floated towards him: to hit it first time into the far top corner of the Egypt net. As the scorer explained to FIFA.com, it was all a question of preparation. “The weirdest thing is that I knew it was going to happen,” said Rakhmatov, whose wonder strike took Uzbekistan into the Round of 16 at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021™. “I felt confident because everyone said to me before the match that I was going to score. "It was an amazing goal but more than anything else it was an important one. I thought of my parents, my friends, my compatriots and our supporters. I knew we were going to do it because of them.”

Few would have shared his optimism at kick-off time, at which point Uzbekistan lay bottom of Group B, having lost their first two matches. The Uzbeks were prepared for what lay ahead, however. “It’s not hard to get motivated for a game like this,” said Rakhmatov, whose side had lost to Guatemala and RFU earlier in the section. “In our first game, we felt the pressure that comes with playing a World Cup opener. We played better in the second match but the opposition was too strong. “But for this third match, winning was the only thing on our minds. We had no option but to win. It doesn’t matter who you’re playing or the pressure that’s on you, these are the easiest matches to get motivated for.” Rakhmatov’s volley, which came after Egypt had cancelled out Khusniddin Nishonov’s opener, not only took Uzbekistan into the next round, but gave them their first ever FIFA Futsal World Cup victory. “Our big achievement in 2016 was just to qualify for the World Cup for the first time,” said the 27-year-old, who did not make the journey to Colombia but was called up the following season by Uzbekistan’s Spanish coach at the time, Jose Maria Mendez. “When we qualified again, we had to set ourselves a bigger objective. "We secured a point at our first World Cup and now, at our second, we’ve won our first match and qualified for the last 16. It just shows that we’ve learned from that first tournament and that we’ve progressed. We had to justify our place here and show that we were capable of doing better.”

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 09: Anaskhon Rakhmatov of Uzbekistan poses during the Uzbekistan team presentation prior to the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 Lithuania on September 09, 2021 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Alex Caparros - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

The team from central Asia have achieved their goals thanks to their painstaking preparation for the tournament. “We played a lot of friendlies against the best teams in the world, like Spain, Portugal and Argentina,” said Rakhmatov, one of eight Almalyk MFK players in a squad where every member plays in the Uzbek league, a factor that allowed the White Wolves to get together on a regular basis during the global pandemic. “We are grateful to our national association for their organisation and for giving us the best possible conditions for us to go and take on the best.” Uzbekistan will be up against the best in the knockout phase, where Rakhmatov hopes they will come up against Kazakhstan, for one very good reason. “The player I admire the most in futsal is Douglas. He’s amazing,” said the Uzbekistan defender, who also lists former Brazil international Kaka as a footballing idol. “It would be a dream to play against Douglas. Every player dreams of coming up against their hero, and it would be even more amazing to do it in a World Cup.”

VILNIUS, LITHUANIA - SEPTEMBER 18: Khusniddin Nishonov of Uzbekistan celebrates scoring his teams first goal of the match during the FIFA Futsal World Cup 2021 group B match between Egypt and Uzbekistan at Vilnius Arena on September 18, 2021 in Vilnius, Lithuania. (Photo by Alexander Scheuber - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images)

Match Highlights: Egypt v Uzbekistan

18 Sept 2021