The White Wolves confirmed their spot in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Round of 16 after recording an emphatic 4-0 win against Turkmenistan in a Group F tie on Sunday.
The win, coupled with Japan’s 1-0 triumph over Oman in the day’s earlier match, ensured the Samurai Blue and Uzbekistan the top two spots in the group with six points each, with their clash on Thursday to determine who wins the group.
Turkmenistan, meanwhile, will face Oman with both teams needing the three points to stand a chance of progressing to the knockout stage as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Uzbekistan were all business from the first blow of the whistle with Dostonbek Khamdamov’s header hitting the ground before just rebounding over the crossbar in the fifth minute.
Uzbekistan continued to push and a counter-attack in the 16th minute caught the Turkmenistan backline off-guard as skipper Odil Akhmedov led the charge, with a string of passes ending with Javokhir Sidikov sliding the ball into an unguarded goalmouth.
Eight minutes later, Turkmenistan lost the ball in midfield with Otabek Shukurov sending a through pass down the middle to Eldor Shomurodov, whose right-footed effort made its way past ‘keeper Mammet Orazmuhammedov.
Five minute before the break, Gurbangeldi Batyrov’s poor clearance allowed Jaloliddin Masharipov to let fly a half-volley to make it 3-0.
Less than two minutes later, Masharipov turned provider with his pass finding Shomurodov, and the 23-year-old forward displayed excellent footwork before scoring his second of the night.
Khamdamov could have furthered Uzbekistan’s advantage in the 44th minute but much to Turkmenistan's relief, his strike was denied by the upright.
The onus was on Yazguly Hojageldiyev’s side to reduce their deficit, but the White Wolves continued pressing, forcing Orazmuhammedov to make a double save in the 55th minute.
With the three points in the bag, Uzbekistan chose to slow down as their thoughts shifted towards what promises to be an epic match against Japan at the Khalifa bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain on Thursday.