How India’s AFC Asian Cup 2023 opponents have fared in past editions: Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan will be eyeing their first-ever AFC Asian Cup title.
India are set to partake in a difficult group stage at the AFC Asian Cup 2023. The Blue Tigers have been placed in a challenging group alongside former winners Australia. They have also been pit against an unpredictable Uzbekistan side – who have held their reputation as among Asia’s most physical sides in recent years.
Uzbekistan have never won an AFC Asian Cup edition, but have been regular participants in it over the course of this century. The White Wolves are currently ranked 74 in the FIFA rankings, almost thirty places higher than India. They’re vying to win the group and go deep into the knockout stages in the aim for winning their first-ever title.
The White Wolves have put in some respectable performances in the past editions of the AFC Asian Cup. Here we look at how they’ve fared in them.
Uzbekistan only became a part of the AFC in the mid-1990s. Their debut at the AFC Asian Cup was in the 1996 edition. They were placed in the same group as Asian heavyweights Japan and China, as well as a challenging Syria side.
Uzbekistan actually managed to win their first-ever match at the AFC Asian Cup, causing a major upset, with a 2-0 win over China. However, they went onto suffer crushing losses to Japan and Syria.
At the end of the group stages, Uzbekistan had the same points as second-placed China – but an inferior goal difference cost them on the occasion and saw them eliminated from the group stages.
Unfortunately for Uzbekistan, their luck didn’t really improve in the 2000 AFC Asian Cup edition at all. After fighting hard to qualify for it, the White Wolves were placed in the same group as heavyweights Japan, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.
Uzbekistan would go on to be properly humbled in that edition. They did a decent job at starting their tournament with a 1-1 draw, but things went from bad to worse after that. The White Wolves lost their match to Japan by the margin of 8-1, which is still one of the biggest wins for a side in an AFC Asian Cup game.
They also went on to lose their final game against Saudi Arabia with a margin of 5-0, conceding 14 goals and scoring just twice in the group stages. They finished 12th in the AFC Asian Cup 2000, basically the last among all 12 sides.
Uzbekistan worked hard to improve their national team after the embarrassing 2000 AFC Asian Cup outing and came back firing in the 2004 edition in China. They were placed in the same group as Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan.
They made a statement of intent by winning their opening game against the heavyweights Iraq, taking charge of their group. Uzbekistan also got their revenge over Saudi Arabia with a gritty 1-0 win, before winning the final group game against Turkmenistan by a 1-0 margin to have a perfect group stages.
The White Wolves faced Bahrain in the quarter-finals and had a brilliant game. They came back from being down late on to make it 2-2 and force extra-time. However, they were unable to win the game in extra-time and forced a tie-breaker. Uzbekistan came up short in the penalties, with Marat Bikmaev and Leonid Koshelev missing their spot-kicks – eliminating their team from the event.
After their impressive outing in the 2004 edition, Uzbekistan came into the 2007 AFC Asian Cup in impressive form. They were placed in the same group as Iran, China and co-hosts Malaysia. The White Wolves had a disappointing start to the campaign, suffering a 2-1 loss to Iran even after taking the lead against them.
Uzbekistan bounced back strongly from it, with a 5-0 win over co-hosts Malaysia, strengthening their stance in the group. They faced a sturdy China side in the final group game and romped their way into a 3-0 win, qualifying for the quarter-finals as the group runners-up.
However, the White Wolves saw their AFC Asian Cup dreams ended by Saudi Arabia – who fought their way to get a 2-1 win that eliminated Uzbekistan from the competition.
Uzbekistan were placed in the same group as hosts Qatar, as well as China and Kuwait in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup group stages. They gave the hosts a bitter taste of reality by winning the opening game by a margin of 2-0, taking control of the group.
They also picked up a gritty 2-1 win over Kuwait, before drawing their final group game against China. That was, however, enough to help the White Wolves qualify for the knockout rounds as group toppers. In the quarter-finals, a heroic display from Ulugbek Bakayev helped them defeat Jordan 2-1 and make the semi-finals for the first time.
In the semis, however, the White Wolves got a dose of reality as they suffered a 6-0 loss to Australia. They went onto lose the third/fourth playoff game too, finishing fourth in the AFC Asian Cup 2011.
After their mighty impressive outing in the 2011 AFC Asian Cup, Uzbekistan qualified in style for the 2015 edition as well. They were placed in Group B alongside China, Saudi Arabia and North Korea and started the group stages with a gritty 1-0 win over North Korea.
The White Wolves lost their second game to China, but an impressive 3-1 win in the final group game against Saudi Arabia helped them secure a place in the quarter-finals as the group runners-up. However, they faced heavyweights South Korea in the quarter-finals, suffering a 2-0 loss to get eliminated from the competition.
Uzbekistan dominated their way to qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, winning seven of their eight qualifying games. They were placed in a challenging group alongside Japan, Oman and Turkmenistan and their opening game saw them defeat Oman by a 2-1 margin.
The White Wolves followed that up with a dominant 4-0 win over Turkmenistan in the second game, which basically helped them secure qualification for the knockout rounds. Uzbekistan did, however, suffer a loss to Japan in their final group game – but went past the group stages as the runners-up.
However, Uzbekistan’s dream was ended by their old rivals Australia. They put up a commendable fight and forced the game to extra-time, but ended up losing on penalties. The White Wolves will get a chance to enact revenge against the Socceroos in the upcoming edition and will be a tough nut to crack for India too!