Hosts staying grounded after Aussie annihilation
Tuesday, 02 October 2012 17:07
Tehran: Iran coach Ali Doustimehr is warning his side not to become complacent in Wednesday’s AFC U-16 Championship semi-final against Uzbekistan after putting in the most impressive display in the tournament so far when they defeated Australia 5-1 in the last-eight.
The tournament hosts were in emphatic form in Sunday’s one-side quarter-final with the prolific Persians’ high-pressure strategy paying dividends against an out-of-sorts Australia, as a Reza Karmollachaab double (35th and 90+3) and goals from Saeid Ezatolahi (31st pen), Mohhadreza Bazaj (61st) and Ali Rigi (81st) outlined Iran’s status as the clear favourites in Wednesday’s semi-final with the Uzbeks.
But Doustimehr, who led Iran to glory at the 2008 AFC U-16 Championship, is far too an experienced campaigner to let complacency creep into his side.
“We played very well against Australia but we must not get too proud of ourselves and we will prepare ourselves well for the game against Uzbekistan,” said the 47-year-old, who is coaching at this tournament for the fourth time following campaigns in 2010, 2008 and 2004 when the competition was at under 17 level.
“We will prepare well and we will do what it takes to win this championship in our own country.
Victory on home soil will be a great source of pride for Doustimehr and his young charges, who, the coach explained, are focussing firmly on achieving something for the country rather than the potential individual benefits success would bring.
“We have spoken many times with the players and we said that there might be the possibility of some reward or some money from the Federation if we win. But like all Iranians the players are passionate about their country and they said they are not playing for money but for Iran.”
Iran’s semi-final against Uzbekistan kicks-off at 1700 Tehran time at the PAS Stadium on Wednesday.
Uzbeks undaunted by imperious Iran
3×2 IRN UZB gfxTehran: Uzbekistan coach Dilshod Nuraliyev has said that it doesn’t matter who they meet in the semi-finals as their opponent is it out of their hands, with a tough encounter against tournament hosts Iran standing between them and a place in the 2012 AFC U-16 Championship final.
“At this stage of the competition you can’t have a preference of who you get to play,” said Nuraliyev ahead of Wednesday’s semi-final against an Iran side that is in ominous form, having annihilated Australia 5-1 to book their place in semis and take their scoring tally for the tournament to 14 goals from four matches.
“Iran is playing very well and I am certain will get strong support from the home crowd but I am sure my team’s performance in the semi-final will be much better than our performance in the quarter-final with Korea.”
Uzbekistan, runners-up to DPR Korea at the last AFC U-16 Championship, have rode their luck in the 15th edition of the continental youth tournament with Nuraliyev’s side needing a stoppage-time equaliser from India to advance to the last eight as Group D runners-up at the expense of China before booking their semi-final ticket (and place in the 2013 FIFA U-17 World Cup) via the lottery of the penalty shootout against the Koreans.
Akobir Turaev’s 64th minute strike in Sunday’s quarter-final at the Rah Ahan Stadium looked to have been enough to take the Uzbek’s through but an equaliser from Hwang Hee-chan four minutes into stoppage time sent the tie into a penalty shootout.
Ironically it was Hwang, the tournament’s leading scorer with five goals, whose penalty miss proved decisive as the Uzbeks scraped through in a match that Nuraliyev believed the Central Asians should have won more comfortably.
“We wanted to win it in regulation time and we could have buried the match if we had converted the string of chances we had in the second half but in the end we won the match.
“I am very happy that we have qualified for the World Cup but now we must focus on our next target which is to win this tournament.”
Ravshanbek Khursanov is now eligible to take part in Wednesday semi-final at the PAS Stadium after the Uzbek midfielder was suspended for the game against Korea Republic following yellow cards in the group stage matches against India and Syria.