Sardor Rashidov and Vokhid Shodiev scored brace to help Uzbekistan team progress to the quarter-finals with 3-1 win vs Saudi Arabia

Midfielder Sardor Rashidov and forward Vokhid Shodiev scored goals to give Uzbekistan a 3-1 victory over Saudi Arabia and a spot in the Asian Cup quarter-finals.

Uzbekistan will next face South Korea in Melbourne on Thursday after finishing second in Group B to China, which completed a clean sweep of the group stage with a 2-1 win over already eliminated North Korea.
Uzbekistan took the lead after just 90 seconds when Rashidov stole the ball against the run of play just inside the Saudi half before beating three defenders and sliding a shot between the legs of Saudi goalkeeper Waleed Abdullah.

Saudi Arabia pushed relentlessly into the Uzbekistan half for no reward either side of the interval until Mohammed Al Sahlawi finally equalised from the penalty spot in the 60th minute when Naif Hazazi was brought down by Vitaly Denisov in the area.

Uzbekistan looked to have scored from a free-kick just two minutes later, but an apparent goal was called back after the referee ruled a Saudi defender was pulled down while standing in the wall.

Second-half substitute Vokhid Shodiev restored the lead for Uzbekistan in the 71st when he leapt to meet a long Shavkatjon Mulladjanov cross and powerfully headed the ball inside the near post.

Rashidov claimed his second goal to put the win beyond doubt in the 79th when he gathered a long, centering pass from Jasur Khasanov inside the area and outran the Saudi defence before firing the ball past Abdullah in the Saudi net.

Sun Ke celebrates after scoring the winning goal for China during his side's match against Uzbekistan

Sun Ke celebrates after scoring the winning goal for China during his side’s match against Uzbekistan

China already secured top spot in the group with wins over Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan, and face hosts Australia on Thursday in Canberra.

Uzbekistan enjoyed a sensational Asian football debut at the 1994 Asian Games, winning all seven games to claim the gold medal.

But at the 1996 AFC Asian Cup in the UAE, the Uzbeks lost 4-0 to Japan and 2-1 to Syria to miss out on qualification for the knockout stage despite beginning their campaign with a 2-0 win over China.

Four years later in Lebanon, Uzbekistan were humbled 8-1 by Japan and 5-0 by Saudi Arabia having shared a 1-1 draw with Qatar in their opening game.

Uzbekistan, though, emerged as a much more competitive outfit in China in 2004 and pushed aside Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan to top their group with a 100 per cent record before losing 4-3 on penalties to Bahrain in the quarter-finals following a 2-2 draw after extra-time.

They reached the last eight again in 2007, only to lose 2-1 to eventual finalists Saudi Arabia, while Uzbekistan’s semi-final appearance in 2011 underlined their status as a regional force.

Uzbekistan legend Mirdjalal Kasimov was reappointed as coach in June 2012, while the former midfielder also remains charge of domestic heavyweights Bunyodkor.

Two-time AFC Player of the Year Server Djeparov remains key for Uzbekistan along with Russia-based midfielder Odil Ahmedov, while the likes of Jasur Khasanov and Sardor Rashidov are emerging talent to keep an eye on in Australia.

Asian Cup lead-up: Kasimov’s side started their preparation for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup with a 0-0 draw against Azerbaijan before defeating Jordan (2-0) and New Zealand (3-1). Having gone down to Qatar 3-0 in Doha they finished scoreless with Bahrain before defeating the UAE 4-0 in Abu Dhabi.

Uzbekistan then secured victories over Palestine (1-0) and Jordan (2-1) in early December. They finalised their AFC Asian Cup preparations with a 1-0 win and a scoreless draw against Iraq.

Coach – Mirdjalal Kasimov (UZB): Mirdjalal Kasimov had an 18 year playing career and was capped over 60 times for his nation. Following his retirement he took on his first head coaching role at top Uzbek side Bunyodkor in 2007. He took on the role as national coach in 2008 and after eventually being replaced he returned to Bunyodkor to take over from Luiz Felipe Scolari. He became coach of the Uzbek national side again in 2012, while continue to coach Bunyodkor, and led the White Wolves to qualification for the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. He stood down from his position at Bunyodkor in early 2014 to focus solely on achieving success with the national team.

www.afcasiancup.com

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About Ahmed Islamov

I was born and raised in Uzbekistan and lived in that country for about two thirds of my life. I left the country about 14 years ago but sustained tight bonds with my family and friends living there. I know and communicate personally with hundreds of people including blue-, white- or pink-collar workers. I am naturally very attached to and concerned with everything that is going on there.
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