Nickname: White Wolves
Manager: Olim Shakirov
Last match: India 1-1 Uzbekistan (22 September 2019)
Uzbekistan’s performance in the AFC U16 Championship is rather interesting. They have featured in the final round in just nine of the 18 editions so far but have performed well whenever they have reached the finals. They first participated in the group stage in the 1994 Qatar edition. They lost all four of their games, conceding a whopping 31 goals in the process.
Their campaign in 1996 in Thailand was only marginally better, with just one win in four games as they failed to make the knockouts yet again. Uzbekistan’s best performance at that point arrived in 2002 when they finished fourth in the tournament held in the UAE.
The White Wolves could manage a quarterfinal finish when they hosted the tournament in 2008 but quickly outdid themselves with a silver medal in the 2010 edition, which was once again played in Uzbekistan.
This enabled them to qualify for the 2011 FIFA U17 World Cup that was held in Mexico. They did well to top a group that also contained USA, New Zealand and Czech Republic. A thumping 4-0 win over Australia in the last-16 ensured Uzbekistan marched on to the quarterfinals in great momentum. But a 2-0 defeat against eventual silver medallists Uruguay ended their campaign.
Uzbekistan witnessed a peak of sorts during the turn of last decade. After bagging a silver medal in 2010, they went on to become champions in the 2012 edition that was hosted by Iran.
They defeated big names such as South Korea, Iran and Japan in the knockout stages to claim their first AFC U16 Championship title.
Uzbekistan were eliminated in the quarterfinals in the two subsequent editions and failed to qualify for the 2018 AFC U16 Championship. India can expect a tough challenge against a side that has experience of winning silverware in this competition.
LESSONS FROM THE PAST
The Indian colts and the young White Wolves have locked horns on three occasions so far – twice in the qualifiers to the AFC U16 Championship and once in the final round. Uzbekistan have won twice but the most recent result was a 1-1 draw in the 2020 AFC U16 Championship qualifiers.
Sridarth Nongmeikapam scored for India whereas Rian Islamov scored for the hosts in the 1-1 draw.
|H-H||GAMES||INDIA WINS||DRAWS||UZB WINS||GOALS (INDIA)||GOALS (UZB)||GD (INDIA)||WIN % (INDIA)|
Uzbekistan finished runners-up in the 2019 CAFA (Central Asian Football Association) U16 Championship that was held last year in Tajikistan. The White Wolves failed to win either of their first two games but came back strong to defeat Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan in the following games. Eventually they finished second with 10 points, with Tajikistan winning the league-format tournament with 13 points.
In September 2019, Uzbekistan hosted the qualifiers for the upcoming U16 Championship. They started their campaign with a 3-1 win over Bahrain and followed it with a 3-2 win over Turkmenistan. The final game saw them split points with India after a 1-1 draw.
WHAT TO EXPECT
They have scored 19 goals in their last eight games, averaging an impressive 2.38 goals per game. They scored at least one goal in each of their games and at least three in five of the eight games.
One can expect an attack-minded approach from Uzbekistan when they take the field in Bahrain later this year. The defence has kept just two clean sheets during this period but have not conceded more than two goals in any of the games.
India will have to be on top of their game to overcome the White Wolves.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Midfielder Islamov has scored in each of their three qualifier games last season, including a late equaliser to deny India the win in the final game.
Forward Rustam Turdimurodov is another player who could grab the headlines. He scored two goals in the qualifiers.