Uzbekistan coach replaced after opening World Cup qualifier defeat

Mirjalal Kasymov resigned as Uzbekistan coach on Tuesday following their 4-2 loss to North Korea in their opening World Cup qualifier a week ago with Pakhtakor Tashkent boss Samvel Babayan replacing him.

Bakhtiyor Ashurmatov also stepped down as coach of the under-23 side with Viktor Jalilov taking over, the Uzbekistan Football Federation said.

Babayan led Pakhtakor to their 10th Uzbek title last year after going through the campaign unbeaten with the club on course to defend the title as they sit top coming up to the halfway point.

He will be tasked with steering Uzbekistan to top spot in Group H, which also features Philippines, Bahrain and Yemen, to ensure they take part in the third stage of Asian qualifying for Russia 2018. Their next fixture is at home to Yemen in September.

Kasymov had come so close to leading the Uzbeks to a first World Cup last time around, just being pipped on goal difference by South Korea for a place in Brazil last year.

But poor recent form following the 2-0 extra time loss to South Korea in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in January ended his second spell in charge.

The Uzbeks were beaten 5-1 in a March friendly by Japan, lost another 1-0 at home to Iran earlier this month and were 4-0 down to North Korea after 36 minutes of their Group H opener last Tuesday in Pyongyang before the central Asians rallied.

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