03 sep 16:17
Kasimov out to lay Uzbek demons to rest
Success in the game takes perseverance and self-sacrifice, with the teams and players who come out on top often being those who are able to pick themselves up after a fall.
The need to bounce back from disappointment will certainly not be lost on Uzbekistan as they prepare to tackle Asian rivals Jordan on 6 and 10 September. The winners of that tie will progress to face a team from South America in an intercontinental play-off in November, when the glittering prize on offer will be a place at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
The White Wolves have reached this stage of the qualifying process for the second time in their history, and they will be hoping for a better outcome than on their previous outing. Looking to advance further down the road to Germany 2006 in October 2005, they lost out to Bahrain on away goals.
One man who remembers that frustration better than most is current coach Mirjalol Kasimov, who contested both legs as a player. Although the defeat was a bitter blow, Kasimov quickly picked himself up and has now led Uzbekistan to the verge of another play-off with the side that finishes fifth in South American qualifying.
Indeed, the 42-year-old has made quite an impact since his appointment last June, steering his charges through four qualifying rounds in the Asian Zone and picking up notable wins over Qatar, Iran and Lebanon in the most recent. They also drew at home with fellow section hopefuls Korea Republic and finished level with them on points – only missing out on an automatic ticket to Brazil on goal difference.
"It was a shame for us because we could have celebrated with our supporters," said Kasimov, his team having signed off with a 5-1 defeat of Qatar that ultimately proved insufficient to displace the Taeguk Warriors. "We failed to attain our goal."
Despite that setback, the former midfielder has not lost faith and is looking forward to continuing "the fight" away against Jordan on Friday. Uzbekistan will then conclude the tie on home soil the following Tuesday. "We'll have to fight with the same determination," said Kasimov. "Life goes on and we'll need to give everything to go through."
Kasimov will not be alone in returning to this qualifying phase either. Both Server Djeparov and Timur Kapadze faced Bahrain in 2005 as well, and their coach will be looking to profit from their experience to help eliminate Jordan.
In contrast, regular goalkeeper Ignatiy Nesterov – another man involved against Bahrain – will be sidelined due to injury, as will young defender Shohruh Gadoev. Nevertheless, their absences are unlikely to dampen the mood of expectation among the White Wolves, particularly as Djeparov and Kapadze will take to the field with a number of promising talents, including Anzhi Makhachkala midfielder Odil Ahmedov. The 25-year-old is determined to deliver, with a place at Brazil 2014 tantalisingly within reach.
"We know that our people want us to qualify and whatever it takes, and with God's help, we will make that dream come true," he said. "We have a golden opportunity against Jordan. If we win, we'll take on a team from South America, so we have four decisive matches in which to get to the World Cup."
Confidence is clearly high in the squad, and it is easy to imagine that belief trickling down through the ranks from the man in charge, who has learned lessons from Uzbekistan's 2005 disappointment and intends to put them to good use. After all, a place at the global showcase does not come cheaply.