MATCH PREVIEW: Iran v. Hong Kong

Doha: Head coach Amir Ghalenoei is expecting more of his Iran players when they take on Hong Kong, China in their second match of the AFC Asian Cup™ Qatar 2023 at Khalifa International Stadium on Friday.

Team Melli started their journey in style, putting four goals past Palestine from four different scorers as all of Karim Ansarifard, Shojae Khalilzadeh, Mehdi Ghayedi, and Sardar Azmoun contributed to the 4-1 victory on Sunday, but Ghalenoei insists his team still has more.

“The last match was difficult; we had to fight a lot and, in the process, picked up two injuries,” said the Iran boss.

“We have some injured players, and we could make 3-4 changes. When I said I was not satisfied with our performance in the previous match, it was because I know what my players are capable of. We are ready for the match tactically and we know our players are technically sound and very creative.

“We should think every match is a final and go step by step, so right now we are only thinking of Hong Kong. I am sure it will be a difficult game. Playing every three days and with injuries, we need to be wary.”

#AsianCup2023 | Group C : Islamic Republic Of Iran 4 - 1 Palestine

Team Melli enjoyed nearly 62% of the possession during their first game of the tournament, but Ghalenoei is more focused on how the team utilises that possession.

“[Pep] Guardiola brought ‘Tiki-Taka’ but he himself is changing; number of passes is not so important, it matters how many players you put out of play by each pass, the possession and how well you complete it. That is the priority for me.

“Every player has a specific responsibility at his club, but at the national team, their responsibilities are different. Mehdi Taremi might not have scored, but we gave him special duties, and he is performing very well.”

Hong Kong started their campaign with a 3-1 defeat to the United Arab Emirates but did enjoy a moment of happiness when Philip Chan scored their first AFC Asian Cup goal since 1968, also marking the 1,000th goal in the history of the competition.

The East Asian side have welcomed the return of veteran centre-back Helio from injury, providing a boost for head coach Jorn Andersen before the team’s clash against IR Iran on Friday.