Opposition Spotlight: Uzbekistan

Australia will take on world number 47, Uzbekistan, in a two-match home-and-away series, looking to claim one of the AFC’s two spots at the Paris 2024™ Olympic Games.

We take a closer look and put Uzbekistan under the microscope ahead of our clash.

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Current FIFA Ranking: 47

Olympic Games Appearances: 0 (The team have played in five Asian Continental championships but has not yet qualified for the Olympic Games or the FIFA Women's World Cup.)

2024 AFC Women's Olympic Qualifying Record

Played: 6
Wins: 5
Draws: 0 
Losses: 1
Goals scored: 23
Goals conceded: 6

Uzbekistan progressed through to the AFC Women's Olympic Football Tournament Paris 2024™ Asian Qualifiers Round 3 (Asian Qualifiers) after finishing as the best second-placed team after Round 2 of qualifying.

The side breezed through Round 1 of qualifying, hosting Bhutan, Jordan and Timor-Leste and recording three wins from three, scoring 19 goals in the process to advance to the next round of qualification. 

Striker Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva was the top scorer for Uzbekistan in Round 1 of qualifying, scoring five against Bhutan and netting a hat-trick against Jordan to help her side progress.

Athletes of Uzbekistan pose before the Women s Semifinal between Uzbekistan and the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou
Athletes of Uzbekistan pose before the Women s Semifinal between Uzbekistan and the Democratic People s Republic of Korea (DPRK) at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou

Uzbekistan's second round of qualification proved a tougher task, hosting the games yet again, the side faced Japan, Vietnam and India, all of which appeared at the last AFC Women's Asian Cup. 

Khabibullaeva found the back of the net in their opening game, helping defeat Vietnam 1-0. Going into their second game, facing former FIFA Women's World Cup champions, Japan, the side tested the side, however, Japan's experience on the international stage prevailed beating the side 2-0. 

Going into the final matchday, Uzbekistan still had a chance of advancing to the Round 3 Qualifiers. An early goal to Nilufar Kudratova and a brace to Lyudmila Karachik helped the side beat India 3-0. 

The side finished as the best second-ranked team after Round 2, tied on points with Phillippines, both picking up six points, however, a better goal difference of +2 helped Uzbekistan ensure a clash with Australia.

Key players

Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva was the top goalscorer across all countries in qualifying, scoring nine goals for her country in Round 1 and 2 of qualification. Across the striker's 25 appearances for her country at a senior level she has scored 27 goals, debuting for her nation in 2019. The forward plays for Uzbekistan Women's League side Sogdiana.

Lyudmila Karachik is another player to watch in the Uzbekistan side, with the forward scoring four goals in qualifying for the tournament. The number 17 captained her side in their 3-0 win over India, helping guide her team to a spot in Round 3 of qualifying. 

China's Zhang Rui (L #10) fights for the ball with Uzbekistan's Lyudmila Karachik (R #17) at the women's football bronze medal match between China and Uzbekistan during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 6, 2023. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
China's Zhang Rui (L #10) fights for the ball with Uzbekistan's Lyudmila Karachik (R #17) at the women's football bronze medal match between China and Uzbekistan during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 6, 2023. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)

Karachik plays for FC Nasaf Uzbekistan Women's League, appearing in their games during the AFC Women's Club Championship 2023, where she took on Jada Whyman's Sydney FC.

Maftuna Jonimqulova is the shot-stopper for the side, appearing in goals for all three of Uzbekistan's games during Round 2 of qualifying. The goalkeeper won her first cap for the senior side during the 2018 AFC Women's Asian Cup qualification during a 7-1 win over India. 

The keeper has one goal to her name, finding the back of the net against Afghanistan during the 2018 CAFA Women's Championship, with the game taking place at Milliy Stadium, the scene for Saturday's battle with Australia. 

Diyorakhon Khabibullaeva
Lyudmila Karachik
Maftuna Jonimqulova

Head Coach

Midori Honda is the coach for the side, with the Japanese manager taking over in 2022 following stints in Japan's Nadeshiko League and six years coaching in the WE League. 

Honda has experience on the international stage, making 43 appearances for Japan from 1981 to 1991. The defender went to the 1991 FIFA Women's World Cup, playing all three games as Japan finished last in their group. 

Uzbekistan's head coach Midori Honda looks on before the women's football bronze medal match between China and Uzbekistan during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 6, 2023. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) (Photo by JUNG YEON-JE/AFP via Getty Images)
Uzbekistan's head coach Midori Honda looks on before the women's football bronze medal match between China and Uzbekistan during the 2022 Asian Games in Hangzhou in China's eastern Zhejiang province on October 6, 2023. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP via Getty Images)

Honda is a trailblazer in her own right, in 2007 becoming the first woman to earn the Japan Football Association’s Level-S coaching certification. Honda was a coach from Japan during the 2012 FIFA U-20 Women's World Cup, helping the hosts to a bronze medal in the tournament. 

Previous Meeting

Australia and Uzbekistan's first and only meeting came back in 2007 during the Olympic Qualifiers for Beijing 2008, the sides faced off in the first round of qualifying with Australia recording a 10-0 victory on the day. 

Clare Polkinghorne is the only player from that winning side that remains in the team, with the likes of Kate Gill, Thea Slatyer, Lauren Colthorpe, Danielle Small, Sarah Walsh, Heather Garriock, Rhian Davies, Collette McCallum and Lana Harch all finding the back of the net in the game.

Recent Form

The Uzbekistan team assembled at the end of January to start preparations for the two-game series, a training camp in Tashkent followed by two friendly matches against FIFA Women's World Cup Round of 16 side Morocco. 

Morocco proved the better of the two sides across the friendlies in early February as both teams prepared for their respective Olympic Qualifying campaigns, with the African recording a 2-0 and 1-0 win over Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan v Australia
Date: Saturday, 24 February 2024
Kick-off: 2.00pm (local) / 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Milliy Stadium, Tashkent
Broadcast: Live from 7.00pm AEDT on 10, 10 Play and Paramount+.

Australia v Uzbekistan
Date: Wednesday, 28 February 2024
Kick-off: 8.00pm AEDT
Venue: Marvel Stadium, Melbourne, Victoria
Broadcast: Live from 7.30pm AEDT on 10, 10 Bold in Perth, 10 Play and Paramount+.