|Date||Comp.||Home team||Away team||Final score||Scorers|
|22.02.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Iran||Taiwan||4 – 0||Andranik TEYMOURIAN (35)
Mehrzad MADANCHI (48)
Mehrzad MADANCHI (61)
Ali DAEI (82)
|16.08.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Iran||Syria||1 – 1||IRAN:Javad NEKOUNAM (71) SYRIA: CHA’ABO Ziyad (88)|
|2.09.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Korea Rep.||Iran||1 – 1||KOREA REP.: SEOL Ki-hyeon (KOR)(45+2) IRAN:Vahid HASHEMIAN (93)|
|06.09.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Syria||Iran||0 – 2||Mohammad NOSRATI (27)
Javad NEKOUNAM (55)
|11.10.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Taiwan||Iran||0 – 2||Ali KARIMI (10)
Ali KARIMI (56)
|15.11.2006||Asian Cup Qualifier||Iran||Korea Rep.||2 – 0||Gholamreza ENAYATI (48)
Hossein BADAMAKI (90)
|Date||Stage||Home team||Away team||Final score||Venue||Scorers|
|10.Jul.2007||Group C||Malaysia||China||1 – 5||China: Han Peng (15′, 55′);Shao Jiayi (36′); Wang Dong (51′, 90+3′)Malaysia : Mahayuddin (74′)|
|11.Jul.2007||Group C||Uzbekistan||Iran||1 – 2||Uzbekistan : Rezaei (16′ [o.g.])Iran: Hosseini (55′); Kazemian (78′(|
|14.Jul.2007||Group C||Malaysia||Uzbekistan||0 – 5||Shatskikh (10′, 89′); Kapadze (30′); Bakayev (45+2′ [pen.]); Ibrahimov (85′)|
|15.Jul.2007||Group C||China||Iran||2 – 2||China : Shao Jiayi (7′); Mao Jianqing (33′)Iran: Zandi (45+1′); Nekounam (74′)|
|18.Jul.2007||Group C||Malaysia||Iran||0 – 2||Nekounam (29′ [pen.]); Teymourian (77′)|
|18.Jul.2007||Group C||Uzbekistan||China||3 – 0||Shatskikh (72′); Kapadze (86′); Geynrikh (90+4′)|
|22.Jul.2007||Quarter Finals||Korea Rep.||Iran||0-0 (5 – 4 PEN.)|
Team Melli Squad
Asian Cup 2007
Articles, match descriptions and news clips.
With the AFC Asian Cup set to kick-off in Bangkok on July 7, Al Jazeera previews the teams in Group C.
China, Iran, Malaysia and Uzbekistan have been drawn in Group C, based in Kuala Lumpur.
Fifa world rank: 76
Coach: Zhu Guanghu
Player to watch: Dong Fangzhou
Best Asian Cup finish: Runners-up 1984 and 2004
With a population of over 1.3 billion much is expected of China on the world stage of football, let alone in their own backyard of Asia.
Zhu Guanghu’s side impressed fans and pundits alike by making the final in the last edition of this tournament in 2004, when they were beaten 3-1 by Japan on home soil in Beijing.
However since then results have been disappointing and with calls for Zhu to step down China will be under a lot of pressure to perform this time around.
Manchester United striker Dong Fangzhou had one start with his new club side in their latest title winning season, with the 22-year-old playing 73 minutes in the crucial 0-0 draw with defending champions Chelsea.
Dong is yet to hit true greatness in the eyes of China supporters, but his recent move to the Premier League’s most successful club could spur him on to a successful Asian Cup.
Fifa world rank: 47
Coach: Amir Ghalenoei
Player to watch: Javad Nekounam
Best Asian Cup finish: Champions 1968, 1972, and 1976.
Three-time Asian Cup winners Iran have not tasted success in the tournament for over 30 years, and have reached the semi-finals in five of the past seven editions of the continental championship.
Coach Amir Ghalenoei is working with a new-look team with the likes of veterans Ali Daei and Yahya Golmohammadi not in the national squad this time around.
Fresh from successfully defending their West Asian Football Federation title in Jordan, Team Meli may be in a rebuilding phase but should be right in contention for a fourth Asian Cup title.
Javad Nekounam, currently plying his trade with Spanish Primera League side Osasuna, is a defensive midfielder, but is also a proven long-range threat on goal.
The 26-year-old will provide direction and control in the middle of the park for Iran, and his skilful distribution will be the key to providing striker Vahid Hashemian with scoring opportunites.
Fifa world rank: 149
Coach: Norizan Bakar
Player to watch: Akmal Rizal
Best Asian Cup finish: Round 1 1976 and 1980
Joint-hosts Malaysia are the lowest Fifa-ranked team in this year’s tournament, and have not qualified for an Asian Cup finals since 1980.
Like the other three hosting nations, there will be plenty of enthusiasm in the Malaysian side and no shortage of fanatical support at the Bukit Jalil stadium in Kuala Lumpur, but this will not be enough for the Tigers to progress past the group stage for the first time.
The entire Malaysian squad play their club football at home in the national league, and Selangor FA striker Akmal Rizal will lead the attack for Norizan Bakar’s team.
Akmal suffered a leg injury in Selangor’s recent FA Cup semi-final clash but hopes to be fit by the time the Asian Cup tournament begins.
Fifa world rank: 58
Coach: Rauf Inileyev
Player to watch: Maksim Shatskikh
Best Asian Cup finish: Quarter-finals 2004
Currently ranked fifth in the Asian Confederation by Fifa, Uzbekistan could be the dark horse of the tournament as the Central Asian nation is often left out of calculations when assessing title-winning candidates.
Rauf Inileyev is the Uzbek’s fourth different coach in the past four years, but his efforts in taking the nation’s under 23s squad to the quarter-finals at the 2006 Asian Games in Doha bodes well for an assault on the Asian Cup.
Uzbekistan won all three of their first round matches in the last Asian Cup, in a group containing Saudi Arabia, Iraq and Turkmenistan, before losing on penalties to Bahrain in the quarter-finals.
Dynamo Kyiv striker Maksim Shatskikh will again be the key player for Uzbekistan, with the former AFC Player of the year runner-up a real danger man in front of goal.
Three-time Asian Cup champions Iran haven’t made the final since 1976.
Chris Wang Last Modified: 10 Jul 2007 08:34 GMT
Iran, three-time Asian Cup champions, are looking to win a record fourth title as they kick-off their 2007 campaign against Uzbekistan at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.
Often thought of as one of the strongest sides in the confederation, Iran have disappointed in the continental tournament recently, as they have not made the final since their run of three crowns in a row in 1968, 1972 and 1976.
A string of third placings in 1980, ’88, ’96 and 2004, along with a fourth place in 1984 have seen the West Asian nation always there or there-abouts in the competition, without making it to the ultimate match in recent times.
Team captain Mehdi Mahdavikia will lead a squad comprised of new faces and old stagers in what he believes is the perfect mix to take Iran to a long awaited Asian Cup final.
“We have a good team now, it’s stronger than the 2006 Fifa World Cup team,” Mahdavikia told a press conference on Tuesday.
“The composition is of young players and experienced players, which makes a good team.”
The midfielder was confident about taking over as a senior player in the side with the likes of defender Yahya Golmohammadi and prolific striker Ali Daei no longer around to provide leadership and direction.
“Ali Daei was a very honourable player in our team, we can never forget him and his name is always with our team,” Mahdavikia said.
“This is my fourth Asian Cup, we have experienced players playing in Europe and we convey this experience to the younger players.”
Iran, currently ranked number two in Asia by Fifa, take on Uzbekistan in their opening Group C match, with the fifth-ranked Asian side sure to provide a stern test in difficult conditions.
“We have a tough game against Uzbekistan, they are a fit team and have the advantage of good physical fitness. If we win the first match, we can then think about the next stage,” said Mahdavikia.
Not to be underestimated
National coach Amir Ghalenoei agreed, but was also confident that his side had acclimatised to the hot and humid conditions in Kuala Lumpur.
“The weather and the climate are hard for us, but the team have trained well, and we have adapted,” Ghalenoei said.
“We have already arranged and set our program very well, we know that Malaysia has a different climate with high humidity.
“All of our players are injury free and ready for the game.”
With Asian Cup big guns Australia and Japan already off to shaky starts, Ghalenoei was not about to underestimate his side’s opponents, which also include Malaysia and China in Group C.
Instead, the 43-year-old pointed to the positive development of football in the Asian confederation, suggesting that it was no surprise to see the likes of Thailand, Oman, Vietnam and Qatar springing surprises.
“As you are aware of the results that have happened over the past two days, it shows that footballing nations in Asia are getting closer to each other and the situation is going to be very hard for all teams,” he said.
“The matches we have are hard, our opponents are strong. We have to think technically, think about the matches, especially against Uzbekistan. They are a good strong team.”
“We respect all other teams, no teams can be underestimated.”
Other teams in the tournament would do well not to underestimate Iran, as they seem well placed to break their 30-year drought.
Iran score three goals but only win 2-1 in their Asian Cup opener.
Chris Wang in Kuala Lumpur Last Modified: 11 Jul 2007 20:49 GMT
Three-time champions Iran came from a goal down to start their 2007 Asian Cup campaign with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Second half goals to defender Seyed Hosseini and substitute Javad Kazemeyan were enough to save the blushes of defender Rahman Rezai who had scored an embarrassing own-goal in the 16th minute.
“I congratulate the Uzbekistan coach, his team were very well prepared and we had a very good match today,” Iranian coach Amir Ghalenoei said after the match.
“I highly appreciate my players, who played very well in the second half and did as I instructed.
“The biggest problem was the weather, the climate of Kuala Lumpur, which caused the quality of the match to decrease.”
A flat start
Iran began slowly and looked flat at times, but lifted their game in the second half as Uzbekistan began to wilt in the tough conditions after they themselves had looked impressive in the first half.
Ghalenoei became the second manager in the tournament to be sent form the sidelines when Kuwaiti referee Saad Al Fadhli was called over by his assistant referee, and after consultation with fourth official Khaili Al Ghamdi, sent Ghalenoei into the stands with six minutes left in the match.
Just a day earlier at the pre-match press conference, Ghalenoei had told reporters that although football was an emotional game, he would try to control his temper.
After the match the Iran coach claimed he was shouting at one of his players for losing the ball, and not at any of the officials.
The evenly poised match took a turn in the 16th minute when Rezai, under pressure from Uzbek striker Ulugbek Bakaev, headed his back pass over keeper Hassan Rodbarian who tried in vain to stop the own-goal.
Bakaev had done well to chase down what looked to be a harmless long ball from left back Vitaliy Denisov, forcing Rezai into the costly mistake.
Iran just couldn’t get any rhythm and looked slightly flat with captain Mehdi Mahdavikia making some searching runs down the right flank, but unable to hook up with striker Vahid Hashemian who played a lone role up front for most of the first half.
With three minutes to go in the half, Iran had a rare chance when Hashemian crossed from the left only for fellow forward Rasoul Khatibi to head wide when unmarked in front of goal.
Even though his side were down one goal, coach Ghalenoei persisted with the lone Hashemian up front, supported wide by Gholam Enayati and halftime substitution Javed Kazemeyan, with Ali Karimi in behind.
Seyed Hosseini would be the second Iranian defender to score on the night, but luckily for his team it was at the right end of the field.
As the stadium lights began to take over in 55th minute, a corner from Mahdavikia saw Hosseini rise well above the pack with a well executed downward header which bounced before the goal line on its way into the net at the far post.
The equaliser sparked both teams into a burst of end-to-end football and when Server Djeparov played a through ball in the 71st minute, Timur Kapadze found himself one-on-one with Rodbarian, but the Iranian keeper was up to the task with a save from point-blank range.
The winner arrives
Iran had the winner in the 77th minute when a brilliantly threaded through ball by Bolton Wanderers midfielder Andranik Teymourian split the Uzbekistan defence, with Kazemeyan then hitting a low shot past keeper Pavel Bugalo.
After starting slowly Iran finished the stronger of the two sides, and although three minutes of stoppage time were added, Uzbekistan looked a spent force with Team Meli doing enough to earn a valuable three points in their opening match.
“The first match is always difficult for any team,” Rauf Inileyev, Uzbekistan coach said at the post-match press conference.
“Kapadze had a good chance to score but he missed, and if we scored that goal I think the game would have gone the other way today.”
Uzbekistan now take on joint-hosts Malaysia on Saturday, while Iran face fellow first up winners China on Sunday.
Iran fight back from 2-0 down to earn a crucial point.
Chris Wang in Kuala Lumpur Last Modified: 15 Jul 2007 15:52 GMT
China and Iran played out a 2-2 draw in a Group C match of contrasting halves at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, after the East Asian side had been ahead 2-0 until the 45th minute.
An early goal to China midfielder Jiayi Shao in the sixth minute was doubled by a Jianqing Mao strike in the 33rd minute, only for Iran midfielder Ferydoon Zandi to get his side back in the match with an excellent free-kick seconds before the break.
Iran then looked the better side in the second half, and Osasuna midfielder Javad Nekounam reaped the rewards with a 74th minute header to make the scores level.
China looked impressive in the first half, but seemed to wilt in the second as their coach Guanghu Zhu took a more defensive approach, trying unsuccessfully to protect his lead.
“No player or coach will say ‘we will defend and not attack’,” Zhu said at the post-match press conference in reference to his substitutions of attacking trio Dong Wang (61st minute), Mao (68th), and Peng Han (79th).
“Iran just gave us more pressure in the second half.”
On the other hand, Iran were well off the pace in the first 45 minutes and were lucky not to be behind by more as their opponents sent wave after wave of attack, but stormed home in the second half just as they had done in their opening match against Uzbekistan.
“In the first quarter of the match we played very badly,” Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, said.
“We mentioned China’s areas of strength in our technical meeting, and that we should be careful in the first 15 minutes, but that’s how and when they scored.
“In the second half we played well as we started to concentrate,” Ghalenoei added.
“It is a problem that our form fluctuates, goes up and down. We need to address this problem.”
Heavy rain had fallen in Kuala Lumpur throughout the day, but the light shower that persisted during the team warm-ups had stopped by kick-off, leaving playing conditions at 27 degrees Celsius and 89 per cent humidity.
Plenty of noise once again emanated from the cauldron-like arena, but supporter numbers were limited to those who had travelled from the Middle East or over the South China Sea.
China striker Han went close with the match only 15 seconds old when his audacious aerial overhead kick went looping just wide of the Iran goal, before Nekounam then almost put the ball through his own net in the third minute when trying to clear a cross inside the box.
It was all China in the opening minutes, and Nekounam received the first yellow card from Saudi Arabian referee Khalil Ibrahim Al Ghamdi in the sixth minute for a lunge from behind on Han.
From the ensuing free kick, Shao hit a stunning left-footer from 22 metres that diving Iran keeper Hassan Rodbarian could only get his hand to, with the ball deflecting into the top left corner of the net.
Then in the 33rd minute China went two goals up when Mao was left unmarked from Zhi Zheng’s cross, with the Shanghai Shenhua striker beating an outstretched Rodbarian, sneaking his well-hit shot inside the left post.
Lei Lei Li had to make his first real save shortly after when Mehdi Mahdavikia whipped in a pin-point cross to see striker Vahid Hashemian hit a glancing header which the China keeper parried away.
Zandi the hero
But in the final minute of first half regulation time, Weifeng Li gave away a free kick before German-born Zandi smashed his own powerful left-foot shot into the top-right corner with Lei Lei Li flinging himself to no avail.
Iran looked sharper at the beginning of the second period, with halftime substitutions Iman Mobali and Javad Kazemeyan, goal scorer against Uzbekistan, adding some life to the forward line.
From the hour mark, Iran began to finish stronger as China sat back and tried to absorb the pressure, and it was only a matter of time before the equaliser came.
With 16 minutes remaining, Nekounam, the eventual player of the match, scored as he leapt high to meet a cross from the right with a well placed header to earn his side a point.
Iran now play joint-hosts Malaysia in their final first round match on July 18 with a win looking likely for Team Meli, while China and Uzbekistan face off on the same day for a place in the quarter-finals.
Malaysia lose 2-0 in coach Norizan Bakar’s final match in charge.
Chris Wang in Kuala Lumpur Last Modified: 21 Jul 2007 14:20 GMT
Iran topped Group C of the Asian Cup with a 2-0 win over joint-hosts Malaysia at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, meaning the three-time champions remain in Kuala Lumpur for an enticing quarter-final clash with Korea Republic.
A first-half penalty to Iran midfielder Javad Nekounam and a second-half strike to Andranik Teymourian were enough to see the West Asians through to the second round against a highly defensive home side.
Malaysia, who had conceded 10 goals in their first two matches of the tournament were determined not to be embarrassed again, as they lined up in 5-4-1 formation to stifle Iran’s attacking play.
Coach Norizan Bakar’s tactics made for a rather drab match with Iran trying time after time to penetrate the wall of yellow and black defenders, while Malaysia rarely got out of their own half in possession of the ball.
Bakar announced after the match that it had been his final assignment as national coach, as he had been sacked by the Football Association of Malaysia prior to the game.
A tale of two coaches
“Coaching is about hiring and sacking,” an emotional Bakar told reporters.
“It’s all about results. This is my responsibility. These things happen in football and I have to accept them.”
In contrast, Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, was very pleased with his side’s performance which allowed them to top the group and avoid an early trip to Jakarta.
“It was a very good game, although we missed many chances,” Ghalenoei said.
“The group was very tough, and we are very happy to top the group and stay in Malaysia for our next match.
“Our forwards didn’t score, but our attacking system worked and we have scored six goals in three matches.”
Iran striker Vahid Hashemian had a golden opportunity to open the scoring in the seventh minute when he was left unmarked seven metres out and in front of goal, but chose to take a touch first and then hit his shot straight at Malaysian keeper Azizon Abdul Kadir.
Iran opened the scoring in the 28th minute when Muhamad Kaironnisam, Malaysia captain, bumped Ali Karimi in the box, with the new Qatar SC signing having no hesitation in crumbling to the ground.
Syrian referee Muhsen Basma pointed to the spot before Nekounam, Iran’s Osasuna midfielder, made no mistake with the spot kick, putting his side one goal up.
Late in the half a che
eky chip from the right wing by Malay midfielder Shukor Adan saw Iran keeper Hassan Rodbarian forced into action for the first time in the match when he had to leap backwards to get a fully stretched arm to the shot which was on target to drop under the bar.
The halftime stats told the story, with Iran having eight corners to Malaysia’s none, and ten shots to the home side’s three.
Both sides got a littl
e testy early in the second half with tempers simmering and set to boil over after some rash challenges and niggle off the ball, and when Bolton midfielder Teymourian hit a powerful shot towards goal in the 58th minute Azizon had to make another flying save.
With the match now reduced to a pseudo half-pitch affair due to Malaysia’s defensive tactics it was really only a matter of time before Iran had a second, and good work by substitute Javad Kazemeyan on the right set Teymourian up just inside the box to seal the match in the 77th minute.
Stats tell the story
Malaysia bow out of the tournament as the only team not to register a point, having conceded 12 goals and scored just one.
“Iran are a good team and we didn’t make it easy for them to win today,” added Bakar.
“The players woke up and showed their true character in terms of fighting spirit and urgency tonight.
“I am a teacher as well, and when the team stops learning, I have to stop teaching,” the outgoing coach added.
Iran now take on Korea Republic in their quarter-final on Sunday.
Team Melli honours for Teymourian
Chris Wang joins Iran for a training session and speaks with Andranik Teymourian.
Chris Wang in Kuala Lumpur Last Modified: 26 Jul 2007 11:49 GMT
Andranik Teymourian, centre, is one of the driving forces in the Iran midfield
The morning after they qualified for the final eight of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, the Iran national team were back out working on the training pitch at Malaysian Football’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
It was a light run for those who had taken part in the previous night’s 2-0 victory over Malaysia, if you can call six laps around the oval in 32 degree Celsius heat and 74 per cent humidity ‘light’, while the reserve players were put through their paces with some sprint work and a six-on-six match.
After giving a brief team talk ahead of the session, Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, participated in the training run with his players as they contemplate a crunch quarter-final meeting with Korea Republic at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Sunday.
The two teams have met at the same stage of the tournament for the past three editions, with Iran winning 6-2 in 1996, Korea triumphant 2-1 in 2000 and Iran victorious again at China 2004.
In that famous quarter-final three years ago in Jinan, Shandong province, Iran won an exciting match 4-3 with midfielder Ali Karimi scoring a hat-trick as the sides exchanged goals until the West Asians finally prevailed.
Karimi has been a little off the pace so far in this year’s tournament, with Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian, the two engines in the Iran midfield, driving the team forward this time around.
Teymourian, who impressed with English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers last season, scored his side’s second goal against Malaysia on Wednesday night and was enjoying his first Asian Cup foray.
“We’ve had some good matches, but the first match was the toughest for us,” Teymourian told Al Jazeera.
“Playing in this climate and weather conditions is very hard for us, but we hope in the second stage we will improve.
“We’ve had a lot of chances, but didn’t take those chances.”
The 24-year-old is the only Christian in the Iran team, but as with most differences off the field in sport, it has not affected him gelling with Team Melli in the slightest.
“In my opinion, I have had some good performances,” Teymourian said of his tournament so far.
“I dedicate myself to the team and only think about success for the team.”
Iran advanced to the second round with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan, a 2-2 draw with China and a 2-0 victory over joint-hosts Malaysia to top Group C and remain in Kuala Lumpur for their match against Korea.
“They were very strong teams, but I think the climate affected all teams seeing as some of them are not used to playing in these conditions,” Teymourian explained.
Premier League experience
The defensive midfielder made 17 league appearances for Bolton in the 2006/07 season, scoring two goals on the way to helping the Wanderers into the Uefa Cup for their second time in three seasons.
“The Premier League in England is the strongest and highest level in the world,” Teymourian said.
The Tehran-born player broke into the national squad in 2005, and has now established himself as a regular fixture in the starting line-up and is definitely one for the future as Team Melli looks ahead to World Cup 2010 qualification.
“It is honourable for a player to play in the national team,” said Teymourian.
“I’m just so pleased that at 24 years of age I’ve already played for Iran at a World Cup, in 2006.”
With Iran’s fourth quarter-final meeting with Korea in the past four Asian Cups coming up on Sunday, Teymourian will be trying to control the midfield and chime in with some long-range shots in his side’s toughest assignment yet.
Iran haven’t won an Asian Cup title since 1976, but with Teymourian and the rest of the team improving with every match, they are in a great position to break their 30-year drought.
Iran and Korea make familiar foesIran and Korea’s fourth quarter-final in four Asian Cups should be a colossal clash.
Chris Wang in Kuala Lumpur Last Modified: 21 Jul 2007 08:41 GMT
If any two teams know each others games in football, they would be Iran and Korea Republic.
The two were in the same qualifying group for the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, and have met at the quarter-final stage in the past three editions of the tournament with Iran winning 6-2 in 1996, Korea getting up 2-1 in 2000 and Iran victorious 4-3 in 2004.
Now, the teams meet again in what should be an electrifying quarter-final clash at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
“The match is a knockout, so it’s very important for our team,” Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, told a press conference on Saturday.
“We know South Korea very well as we played them in the preliminary stages.
“They are a very good and very strong team.”
Iran, after wins over Uzbekistan and Malaysia along with a draw with China, topped Group C and had the luxury of remaining at their first-round base of Kuala Lumpur, while Korea have had to move their set-up from Indonesia.
“Topping the group and staying in Malaysia has improved or team spirit,” said Ghalenoei.
“The hotel, accommodation, surroundings and climate are all familiar to us now. That is important.”
However Pim Verbeek, Korea Republic’s Dutch coach, said his team were pleased to be in the Malay capital after some tough matches in harsh conditions in Jakarta.
“We are happy to be in Kuala Lumpur. We had a good training session last night on a good field and we look forward to training at the stadium tonight,” Verbeek said.
“There is no excuse in travelling from Jakarta. We have all 23 players fit and we are ready to play against Iran.”“I think we will win”
Verbeek, who came under fire from Korean press earlier in the tournament amid allegations of a rift between the coach and players, said that although Iran looked a tough proposition, he was confident of victory.
“Since our arrival in Kuala Lumpur people have told me that Iran is the strongest team, and the tournament favourite. They are experienced, have all their foreign based players, and they are mentally and technically strong,” Verbeek said.
“They probably have better individual players, but we have a very strong team. I think we will win the game tomorrow night.”
Rahman Rezaei, the Iran defender who was involved in his side’s only conceded goal in the tournament so far – an own goal against Uzbekistan, said he would have to be at his best to deal with Korea’s style of play.
“Korea are a fast team. Very speedy,” Rezaei said.
“They move the ball from defence to attack very quickly. They are a strong side.
“We have played them already, but we shouldn’t look to the past, this is a new match between Iran and Korea,” added the Livorno player.
“It’s a vital match, a knock-out match, so we hope we can play well.”
One Iranian who perhaps isn’t hoping his national team play well is Korea assistant coach Afshin Ghotbi, a Shiraz-born tactician who worked with the Korean team under Dutchmen Guus Hiddink and Dick Advocaat, and now under Verbeek.
“It’s a fact that Afshin knows everything about Iranian football,” Verbeek said.
“I think it’s definitely an advantage. He knows the players and the systems.”
However rival coach Ghalenoei played down Iranian link inside the Korean camp.
“It’s honourable for our country to have someone in a coaching position in the Korean team,” said the 43-year-old.
“But there is no psychological effect on our team. We respect him as a friend and as an opponent.”
Iran have a slight edge over Korea in recent head-to-head results, as they topped Group B of Asian Cup qualifying after a come-from-behind 1-1 draw in Seoul and a 2-0 win in Tehran.
The victor of this almighty clash will face the winner of the quarter-final between Iraq and Vietnam played in Bangkok also on Sunday.