With qualification for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on the line, Uzbekistan currently lead the way with seven points from three games, one more than their Saudi counterparts who are second.
After a shock defeat to Palestine on Matchday One, Uzbekistan have bounced back in style thanks to two successive wins – results which have sent them to the top of the standings ahead of this week’s meeting with Saudi Arabia.
Their latest three-point haul came away to Singapore on Matchday Four when Odil Ahmedov’s early strike, followed by a brace from Eldor Shomurodov, secured a 3-1 victory that has maintained Uzbekistan’s push at Group D’s summit.
Despite his side’s success in Southeast Asia last time out, Uzbekistan head coach Vadim Abramov has been quick to focus on what will, arguably, be a much tougher test against three-time AFC Asian Cup winners Saudi Arabia.
“I see ahead, and we have Saudi (Arabia) coming. I look at the next games. The game against Singapore is already history. I’m already looking ahead,” he said.
Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, head to the Pakhtakor Stadium looking to breathe new life into their campaign after dropping yet more points in a 0-0 draw away to Palestine last time out.
The West Asians have now drawn two of their three matches, with head coach Hervé Renard believing there is still room for improvement.
“We were under huge pressure but we gave our best,” declared the Frenchman after last month’s stalemate. “We still need more time in order to increase coherence between the players.”
World Cup Qualification AFC 2nd Round Grp. D Matchday 5