Five Things to Know about Uzbekistan

Watch: USA-Uzbekitstan on Saturday on Saturday, Sept. 9 at 5:30 ET (TNT, Telemundo, Universo, Peacock, FDP)
By: Michael Lewis

In its first match since it was eliminated in the Concacaf Gold Cup semifinals on July 12, the U.S. will welcome Uzbekistan for an international friendly at CITYPARK in St. Louis, Mo on Saturday at 5:30 ET (TNT, Telemundo, Universo, Peacock, FDP).

It also will be Gregg Berhalter's first game as USMNT head coach since the Round of 16 match against the Netherlands at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar on Dec. 3.

The Americans will use Saturday's encounter as preparation for their important Concacaf Nations League quarterfinal against an undetermined opponent in Austin, Texas on Nov. 16. The winner of that contest will qualify for 2024 Copa America, which will be hosted by the United States.

The USMNT is 11th in FIFA's latest rankings, while Uzbekistan is 74th.

The U.S. will play at the home of St. Louis City SC for the second time in a little more than two months. The Americans registered a 6-0 victory over Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Gold Cup on June 28, as Jesús Ferreira registered a hat-trick. The Americans played in St. Louis for the first time in 1957 and has compiled a 7-1-3 record in the city.

After Saturday's encounter, the USA will face Oman for another friendly in Saint Paul, Minn. on Tuesday, Sept. 12 while Uzbekistan will meet Mexico in Atlanta the same night.


Uzbekistan has never qualified for a FIFA World Cup but has become one of the strongest teams in Central Asia. The White Wolves finished second to Iran at the inaugural Central Asian Football Association Nations Cup this past summer.

Since joining the Asian Football Confederation in 1994, the team has qualified for every AFC Asian Cup. The squad have reached the knockout stage of the last five tournaments, including a semifinal appearance in 2011.

Its first appearance in a confederation tournament was a memorable one. Considered underdogs for the 1994 Asian Games (a competition mostly for amateur players), Uzbekistan shocked its foes with a superlative performance. The team stunned Asian power Saudi Arabia, 4-1, before registering a 5-0 win over Malaysia, and a 1-0 victory over Hong Kong before defeating Thailand, 5-4. After blanking Turkmenistan, 3-0, in the quarterfinals, the squad downed another Asian powerhouse, South Korea in the semifinals, 1-0, before besting China, 4-2, in the final.

With 8.5 slots (one team will advance to the FIFA intercontinental playoffs) given to the Asian Football Confederation for the 2026 FIFA World Cup, Uzbekistan will have its best opportunity to qualify for the new, 48-team tournament that will be hosted by Mexico, Canada, and the USA.


This is the first meeting between the two national teams.

This month's international window presents a rare opportunity for the USA to face opponents from the Asian Football Confederation. The Americans are 2-1-1 against Asian opposition under Berhalter. The wins were against Qatar, 1-0, at the 2021 Gold Cup and IR Iran, 1-0, at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.


The White Wolves have fared well this year, with a 4-1-1 mark. They started with a 1-0 friendly win over Bolivia in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on March 24, as Eldor Shomurodov tallied the lone goal in the 48th minute. Three days later at the same venue, Uzbekistan played Venezuela to a 1-1 draw as Jasurbek Yakhshiboev equalized in the 79th minute.

The next four matches were at the 2023 Central Asian Football Association Nations Cup in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

The team got off to a solid start with a 3-0 triumph over Oman on June 11. Jaloliddin Masharipov connected in the seventh and 24th minutes before Khojiakbar Alijonov added a third in the 89th minute. Uzbekistan notched another clean sheet in a 2-0 win over Turkmenistan on June 14. Shomurodov found the range with a 52nd-minute penalty kick and an 86th-minute score.

Three days later, the squad rolled over Tajikistan, 5-1, as five goal-scorers shared the wealth. After going down in the 13th minute, Yakhshiboev knotted it up with a goal in the 53rd minute. Shomurodov's 56th-minute penalty gave the hosts a 2-1 lead it never relinquished. Abbosbek Fayzullaev (73rd minute), Khojimat Erkinov (83rd minute) and Oston Urunov (six minutes into stoppage time) closed it out.

Uzbekistan, however, had its seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) snapped with a 1-0 defeat to IR Iran in the final on June 20, as Sardar Azmoun tallied the lone goal in the 48th minute.


Srecko Katanec, a former member of the Yugoslavian and Slovenia national teams, took over as manager on Aug. 27, 2021, replacing Vadim Abramov He has directed the White Wolves to a 13-5-2 record.

Katanec, 60, holds the distinction of guiding Slovenia to its first FIFA World Cup in 2002. He also has directed Macedonia, the United Arab Emirates and Iraq national sides and Gorica (Slovenia), Olympiacos (Greece) at the club level.

As a defensive midfielder and center back, Katanec played for five teams during a 14-year career - Olimpia, Dinamo Zagreb, Partizan, VfB Stuttgart, and Sampdoria.

He was a member of the Yugoslavian team that earned a bronze medal at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and appeared in three games at the 1990 World Cup. Katanec made 31 appearances for Yugoslavia, scoring five times, and wore the Slovenian jersey on five occasions, finding the net once.


Srecko Katanec called in 23 players for its North American tour. Sixteen members play domestically, as most of the squad comes from three Uzbekistan clubs.

Five players represent Pakhtakor Tashkent (13-3-2, 41 points), which enjoys a seven-point advantage over second-place Navbahor Namangan (10-4-4, 34) in the Uzbekistan Super League. Navbahor Namangan has four players on the squad, as does Nasaf.

The team also features players from Russian, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Italy and Kazakhstan.

Team captain and forward Eldor Shomurodov, 28, who plays for Cagliari (Italy's Serie A), is the national teams’s all-time goal-scorer with 37. His 66 appearances are the most of any player on the current squad.

Midfielder Jaloliddin Masharipov is the only other player in double digits in goals (10). The rest of the team has combined for 12 goals.

If he chooses, Katanec can start his entire backline from same club, as Khojiakbar Alijonov, Shahzad Azmiddinov, Farrukh Sayfiev and Dilshod Saitov perform for Pakhtakor Tashkent.

Uzbekitstan has four players over the age of 30 - goalkeeper Utkir Yusupov (32), defenders Umar Eshmurodov (32) and Sayfiev (30) and midfielder Jaloliddin Masharipov (30). Midfielder Oston Urunov is the youngest player (22).

Azmiddinov has yet to earn his first cap.


GOALKEEPERS (3): Botirali Ergashev (AGMK; 2/0), Umidjon Ergashev (Nasaf; 0/0), Utkir Yusupov (Navbahor Namangan; 15/0)

DEFENDERS (9): Abdulla Abdullaev (AGMK; 12/0), Khojiakbar Alijonov (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 27/1), Husniddin Aliqulov (Çaykur Rizespor/TUR; 12/0), Rustam Ashurmatov (Rubin Kazan/RUS; 23/0), Shahzad Azmiddinov (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 0/0), Umar Eshmurodov (Nasaf; 16/0), Sherzod Nasrullaev (Nasaf; 12/0), Farrukh Sayfiev (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 42/1), Dilshod Saitov (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 7/0)

MIDFIELDERS (9): Azizjon Ganiev (Shabab Al-Ahli/UAE; 11/0), Odijon Hamrobekov (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 39/0), Jamshid Iskanderov (Navbahor Namangan; 28/3), Abror Ismoilov (Navbahor Namangan; 7/0), Jaloliddin Masharipov (Al-Nasr/KSA; 49/10), Otabek Shukurov (Fatih Karagümrük/TUR; 55/3), Azizbek Turgunboev (Pakhtakor Tashkent; 20/1), Oson Urunov (Navbahor Namangan; 15/3)

FORWARDS (2): Bobur Abdikholikov (Ordabasy/KAZ; 7/0), Eldor Shomurodov (Cagliari/ITA; 66/37)

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