Mingazov inspired by father’s achievements
Prague: Turkmenistan midfielder Ruslan Mingazov wants to follow in his father's footsteps and exceed expectations as the Central Asians get set to appear in the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 2004.
Ruslan’s father, Kamil, played in the Central Asians' maiden appearance in the competition 15 years ago when the country gained arguably the biggest result in their history by scoring late to secure a dramatic 2-2 draw with continental heavyweights Saudi Arabia.
Since then, Turkmenistan have failed to progress to the competition but, after advancing from the third round of qualifying, they will take their place amongst Asia’s elite alongside Japan, Uzbekistan and Oman in Group F.
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“I remember the 2004 tournament very well because my father played in the team,” said Mingazov, who has played his club football in Czech Republic since 2014.
“Turkmenistan played very well and we all remember their performances and are very proud of what they did. Now, we are a new generation of players and we also want to exceed expectations.
“We are very happy to reach the Asian Cup; this is a huge achievement for the team and for all of Turkmenistan. We want to go as far as possible, but our target is to say after each game that we did everything we could, because we have waited a long time to get here.”
Turkmenistan’s maiden AFC Cup appearance, in China, saw them claim a point against the Saudis before narrow defeats to Iraq and the Uzbeks meant they were eliminated at the first hurdle.
After missing out on qualification for the three ensuing editions, the Central Asians booked their place at UAE 2019 following a 2-1 victory over Chinese Taipei in November 2017.
They will next begin their campaign against Japan in Abu Dhabi on January 9, before they face a Central Asian derby with Uzbekistan in Dubai and then return to Abu Dhabi for their final group game against Oman.
“Our group is very strong as Japan are one of the best teams in Asia and they looked great in the World Cup in Russia,” noted Mingazov.
“Uzbekistan, our neighbours, have proven many times that they can compete with, and beat, the other teams, and Oman are technically very strong and capable of causing a surprise. We respect all the teams in our group but are ready to compete with them.
“Odil Ahmedov is one player I like and am looking forward to facing. Players like him give confidence to the team and it’s great for us to play against the best.”
AFC Asian Cup qualification comes at a time when Turkmen football is on the rise, with club side Altyn Asyr – who many of the national team represent – also reaching the 2018 AFC Cup final before defeat to Iraq’s Air Force Club.
“Our coaching staff and management team deserve a lot of praise because they believed that we could get to the Asian Cup,” added Mingazov.
“The national team coach [Yazguly Hojageldyyev] has also been the Altyn Asyr coach and has achieved great success over the past year. He has helped us move forward.”
Photos: Getty Images
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