Iran-Palestine: Match preview

  • 24 hours to go for Team Melli’s first Match.
    * Palestine will not be easy prey.
    * Ghalenoei “We will play attacking football”

Iran and Palestine will start their campaign in the 18th AFC Asian Cup 2023 at Education City Stadium at 20:30 local time. In the pre-match Press Conference, both managers followed the standard narratives and claims about the importance of the match, with Ghalenoei considering it like a Final for Team Melli!

What is certain though, is Palestine will be playing a solid defensive game, perhaps like parking a double-decker in front of their goalkeeper. The responsibility is on Ghalenoei to form a plan to break this tactic which is now being followed by many weaker teams in front of more powerful opposition.

This gameplan by Palestine, with an eye on quick counterattacks on Iran’s goal might spring a surprise on the final result. The more the Palestinian team can hold on, the more difficult is the task for Iran and that includes the psychological pressure and fan’s reaction to a deadlock.

On the other hand, an early goal by Iran will make Team Melli play at a comfortable pace and dictate the match. On paper, Iran is a much stronger team in every sense. They have the experience, the pedigree, the quality, and have been playing some eye-catching football recently. They are undefeated in two years since losing to the USA in the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Palestine has not enjoyed much success at the international level and has been winless since they defeated Bahrain 2-1 in March 2023. Palestine played eight matches since and has failed to register a win, losing 5 times and drawing 3. In those 8 matches, they scored one goal only while failing to score in seven. This team has a big problem up front. On the other hand, they have a solid defense and one that has yet to crash against the might of Australia, Uzbekistan, and Saudi Arabia.

So, expecting a goal ruch from Azmoun and Taremi, is easier said than done, hence the importance of an early goal.

Interestingly, they have two professional players who play in the Israel league. They have not featured as regulars as many other professionals occupy the starting lineup.

First time
This will be the first meeting between Iran and Palestine in the AFC Asian Cup; the last time Team Melli faced a team for the first time in the competition was on 12 January 2019 v Vietnam – scoring a 2-0 win.

Win target
Palestine is yet to register a victory in the AFC Asian Cup, having gone winless (D2 L4) in the 2015 and 2019 editions; this is their third appearance in the competition.

Iran are unbeaten in each of their last 20 group stage games (W15 D5) in the AFC Asian Cup; in fact, the last time they lost the opening game in the competition was a 1-2 loss to Iraq in 1996, having won the last six such games since then on the bounce. 

Terrific duo
No player recorded more touches in the opposition box in 2019 than Iran’s duo of Sardar Azmoun (42) and Mehdi Taremi (33); Palestine’s best player in this category in the previous edition was Mahmoud Wadi with six such touches. 

Sardar Azmoun has scored 49 goals for Team Melli. He needs just one more goal to equal Karim Bagheri who has 50 goals and is only second to the legendary Ali Daei in the list of the highest scorers of Team Melli.