Uzbekistan downs Qatar 5-1 in WCup qualifier

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TASHKENT, Uzbekistan (AP)

Uzbekistan came tantalizing close to qualifying for its first-ever World Cup Tuesday, routing Qatar 5-1 on Tuesday only to come up short on goal difference to South Korea.

Uzbekistan finished level on points with South Korea in second spot in Group A of Asian qualifying - which yielded automatic qualification for Brazil - but were one behind on goal difference. Uzbekistan will go into a sudden-death playoff against either Oman or Jordan, which meet later Tuesday. The playoff will be held Sept. 6 and 10th with the winner going to an intercontinental playoff Nov. 15 and 19.

''It is very unfortunate for us as we wanted to qualify for World Cup and celebrate with our fans. It is a shame that we could not achieve our aim,'' Uzbekistan coach Mirdjalal Kasimov said. ''We couldn't score in the first half as the Qatar goalkeeper played very well. We made changes in the second half and that's why we scored five goals, but Iran beat Korea. We will continue to battle in the next round, although we need a little time to recover.''

Uzbekistan had several good chances in the first 20 minutes but was denied by acrobatic keeper Ahmed Sufyan.

But it was Qatar - already eliminated from qualifying - that struck first. The 2022 World Cup host took the lead in the 37th minute through Abdulqadir Ilyas, who controlled the ball in the area and slotted it into the right corner.

That goal seemed to energize Uzbekistan, which knew it needed a win to give it any chance of reaching Brazil.

The home side hit the crossbar twice in the final five minutes of the first half before substitute Bakhodir Nasimov tapped in a cross to equalize in the 60th. Then substitute Oleg Zoteev sidestepped two defenders in the area and scored the go-ahead goal in the 72nd. Two minutes later, Nasimov had his second after he pounced on a ball that deflected off Sufyan.

After Qatar's Yusuf Ahmed saw his point-blank shot saved in the 86th, Odil Akhmedov fired a shot under the lunging Sufyan to make it 4-1 in the 88th. Ulugbek Bakaev completed the scoring in injury time.

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