HONGKONG (Reuters) – Hector Cuper was sacked as manager of Uzbekistan on Monday, becoming the first coaching casualty of the Asian qualifying campaign for the 2022 World Cup.
Cuper, who was appointed in August last year and took the country to the last 16 at January’s Asian Cup, led his side to a surprise 2-0 defeat by Palestine in the opening qualifying match for the 2022 finals in Qatar last month.
The Uzbekistan Football Association (UFA) announced in a statement on their website that the Argentine had left his role with the national side.
The 63-year-old previously qualified Egypt for the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia and also led Valencia to back-to-back appearances in the Champions League final in 2000 and 2001.
Uzbekistan have never qualified for the World Cup, but hopes are high for the current crop of players after the country won the Asian Under-23 Championship in China at the start of last year.
The Central Asian nation were drawn in Group D of Asia’s qualifying tournament alongside Palestine, Singapore, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.
Only the group winners are guaranteed a place in the next phase of qualifying, while the four best runners-up across the eight groups in the second round will also advance. From there, the continent’s four guaranteed places at the finals will be determined.
Uzbekistan’s next qualifier is on Oct. 10, when they host Yemen, before travelling to Singapore for their next qualifier five days later.
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christian Radnedge)