Iran : Heshmat Mohajerani(Iran)
Kuwait Mario Zagalo (Brazil)
The scene was set of an exceptional occasion in Iranian football history. 112,000 euphoric fans have packed Azadi stadium ( formerly Aryamehr stadium) expecting nothing short of victory in the finals match of Asian Cup. For the third consecutive time, Team Melli Iran won the Asian Cup, to record an unprecedented achievement in Asian football. This championship was that sweeter for the Iranians as it was on home ground and after defeating their nemesis and the upcoming Asian football power, Kuwait. The solitary goal was scored by Iran’s midfield star, Ali Parvin from a perfect free kick that left no chance for the Kuwaiti goalkeeper.
With this win, Iran was the holder of a very proud record. No team in Asia has managed to neither defeat nor even draw against Iran in the Asian Cup so far. 3 tournaments since 1968 , 12 matches played 12 wins , 3 championship a record that will surely stand for a generations to come.
Enroute to the final match, Iran scored has 4 straight wins and managed to keep a clean sheet. Kuwait , fresh from winning the Gulf Cup and victors against arch-rivals Iraq in the electrifying semi-final match , played an organized game and was a tough rival for Team Melli. This match proved that the tiny nation is on the ascend in Asian football scene and will be a major threat to Iranian football supremacy in Asia.
Ebrahim Ghasimpour , the young Khuzestani star, was a prominent player in Iran’s team. He played a major role in organizing the offenses and the defenses of the team against the stubborn and menacing Kuwaitis.
In the first half , Iran controlled the midfield ands along with Ghasimpour , Captain Qleechkhani and Parvin managed to feed the 3 forwards well and organized the play to suit the teams tactics and pace against the faster counter-attacking oppositions. The midfield trio distributed diagonal balls to a great effect which resulted in a total of 10 corners in this half for Iran.
Two long range shots by Ghasimpour and Nasser Nooraei , seriously tested the brilliant Kuwaiti goalkeeper Ahmed Al Traboulsi , who was the star of the Kuwait team. In both cases, Al Traboulsi performed heroics to prevent conceding goals.
Despite the offensive supremacy of Iran , Fathi Kameel , the quick Kuwaiti forward managed to create several threats with his pace and skill, Saad Al Houti also wasted a valuable scoring opportunity for the Kuwaitis in this half.
In the 2nd half , the match changed and slowly but firmly the Kuwaiti’s managed to get more control of the ball and the midfield area. The major factor in this turnover was the fact the Kuwaitis won most of balls on tackles or one-on-one situations. The Iranian midfield were put under a lot of pressure and lost far too many possessions and tackles. Every time Qleechkhani was venturing forward towards Kuwait goal , he left a space that Fathi Kameel utilized well in testing Iran’s keeper Mansour Rasheedi. Kameel’s skills and pace tormented the solid Iranian defense.
To counter the Kuwaiti advances and threats , Mohajerani changed tactics and employed aerial balls. Use of the flanks for crosses taking advantage height advantage of its players . Iran managed to force Kuwait to retreat , however , Al Traboulsi was on top form and had little trouble collecting the crosses with his timely maneuvers. Several shoots , from Nazari , Qleechkhani and Rowshan tested Al Traboulsi , but to no avail.
In minutes 65 , Qleechkhani sent a long diagonal ball for the fast Hassan Rowshan who easily left his marker behind only for Al Traboulsi , Kuwait’s keeper to timely come out of his area and punch the ball. The referee whistled for a foul just outside the area.
The thunderous free kick taken by Ali Parvin from the ensuing foul registered the first and only Iranian goal of the match.
With the pressure mounting from the Kuwaiti offensive moves , Iranian coach opted for control and maintaining the match result. Mazloomi was substituted in to grab any scoring opportunity, but several of his efforts were thwarted by the Kuwaiti defense and the mighty goalkeeper.
When the final whistle by Swiss referee, Team Melli Iran added to their chain of glories, and lifted the Asian Cup for the third consecutive time before the capacity ecstatic crowd.
Perhaps it was not a classical final by the usual high standard of Team Melli , yet a very satisfying & glorious achievement indeed which was appreciated by the fans and a one for the record books.