x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Uzbekistan close to redemption in 2014 World Cup qualifying

Denied in 2005 by a harsh call from the world body, the hosts have support against Jordan for Asian play-off slot.

Uzbekistan coach Mirjalol Kasimov, centre, was a player in 2005 when a bad decision denied them in the qualifiers. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters
Uzbekistan coach Mirjalol Kasimov, centre, was a player in 2005 when a bad decision denied them in the qualifiers. Muhammad Hamed / Reuters

TASHKHENT // Uzbekistan can take a huge step towards becoming the first Central Asian team to reach the World Cup when they host Jordan in the second leg of their Asian play-off on Tuesday night.

The Uzbeks brought home a precious away goal from last week's 1-1 draw, giving them the edge as they seek an intercontinental showdown against a team from South America. Uzbekistan have been this far before, only to see their hopes dashed by some bizarre officiating in the 2005 play-offs against Bahrain.

But Friday's draw in Amman, where Jordan beat Asian giants Japan and Australia earlier in qualifying, has raised hopes of better luck this time for the White Wolves.

"We achieved the minimum goal and now I believe we will do our job in Tashkent and qualify for the next round," said Uzbek coach Mirdjalal Kasimov. "It will be decided in Tashkent, but with our supporters we will play for them and I believe we will qualify."

Kasimov was among the players in 2005 when Uzbekistan, 1-0 up against Bahrain in the first leg in Tashkent, had a successful penalty kick chalked off for encroachment. Instead of a retake, referee Toshimitsu Yoshida mistakenly gave an indirect free kick and, when Uzbekistan protested after the game, Fifa surprisingly annulled the Uzbeks' 1-0 win.

Bahrain drew the replay 1-1 and went on to win the tie on away goals, losing out to Trinidad and Tobago for a berth at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Now Kasimov has the chance to right that wrong with a team that includes Server Djeparov, Uzbekistan's scorer in Amman and a two-time Asian Player of the Year, as well as Anzhi Makhachkala midfielder Odil Ahmedov.

Progression at Pakhtakor Stadium would be a proud moment for the unglamorous nation, sandwiched between Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan in a row of former Soviet states.

Uzbekistan have long been one of Asia's better sides and they reached the 2011 Asian Cup semi-finals before being walloped 6-0 by Australia.

But Jordan's coach Hossam Hassan, who saw action at the 1990 World Cup as a striker with Egypt, is hoping the desert kingdom can still poach victory in the tough away tie.

"It is still half time and we will play the second game in Tashkent on Tuesday," he said.

The winner will face the fifth-placed team from South American qualifying who, at present, is Uruguay, who have three games left to play.

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