Australia's Asian Cup Semi-final Opponents: Uzbekistan
Australia are just one game away from the final and Uzbekistan are the ones who stand in the way
A relatively new side in world football, Uzbekistan played their first international match against Tajikistan as recently as 1992. This was of course due to their split from the old Soviet Union when they became an independent nation.
They have become the strongest out of the new central Asian nations, after having good results against their footballing neighbours. They have also won the football competition at the 1994 Asian games so they-re definitely a side and a nation on the up in terms of their football.
They-ve never yet qualified for a World Cup but they are getting closer to that play-off position that the Asian sides now covet so competitively. The 2006 World Cup qualification was the closest they-ve been to qualifying, when they lost out on away goals to Bahrain in their bid for a maiden World Cup berth.
The result was actually very hotly contested, after a 1-0 home win by Uzbekistan was declared a void result after a Japanese referee made a mistake. The replayed game then ended up 1-1 and Uzbekistan were eliminated after the away leg ended 0-0. Some people in the game said they were robbed of the win and a FIFA enquiry followed.
They-ve definitely fared better in the Asian cup though, they-ve made it to four competitions and been impressive in each tournament. In the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, they made it through the group stage after hammering Malaysia 5-0 and beating China 3-0. Their quest for glory was ended by a solid Saudi Arabian side who edged them out 2-1.
More recently, their side has grown in confidence and stature and this campaign is the most successful one yet for any Uzbekistan international football team. They-ve played well throughout the tournament so far and are undefeated. After defeating the hosts and Kuwait, they-d already taken out top spot before they drew to China.
The quarter finals saw them beat Jordan 2-1 in a very good performance, leading some pundits to label them as a dark outsider to take the cup home. They-re certainly one of the form teams and Australia will have to be on their game in order to progress to the final.
Ranked 108th in the world, Australia have beaten them both occasions they-ve faced each other but they were by no means easy matches and both ended in tight score lines.This said, the steadily improving Australian side should step up a gear and beat the 14th ranked Asian side to make their way into their maiden final of the AFC Asian Cup.
Aside from the World Cup qualification matches, this is Australia-s most important game since they joined the Asian Football Confederation. A win is a must if they want to prove they-re deserving of their number one Asian ranking status. A place in the final would see them take on either Japan or South Korea.