Tag: AFC Asian Cup 2015

Notes from the Asian Cup 2019 – First round.


The Asian Cup which is held in UAE, has brought a lot of interest from sport community across Asia and from other parts of the world. The media is buzzing and reporters from far places have gathered to cover this major event. The Japanese, by far, are the biggest group.

Iranian media is present as always, but I cannot help notice the smaller numbers, relatively speaking, compared to the previous tournaments. The economic situation in Iran and the exchange rate of the Riyal to dollar has a massive effect on this shortage. It is three times more expensive for the Iranians to travel abroad and that is if they are lucky to get the hard currency.  Iranian football federation FFIRI, which has always subsided and supported a number of journalists to cover major Asian completions and especially the Asian Cups, has found itself in dire straits this year. Simply put, there are not enough funds to support larger number of media personnel.


The first match against Yemen was disappointing in the number of Iranian fans. Although, the majority of the 5300 fans in Al Jazeera Club Stadium were Team Melli fans, it was less than expected in a country that has a large number of Iranian expatriates.  But, even with those small number, the Team Melli fans like always, were colorful, vociferous and  cheering the team all the way to the end.

With that famous chants of “Iran Chikaresh Mikoone…Soorakh Soorakhas Mikone” reverberating through the stands, it gave the stadium a fantastic atmosphere which many foreign journalist who have never attended Iran matches before, a sense of appreciation and admiration. “You should experience 100,000 fans do that in Azadi…Now, that is will surely energize your adrenaline.“  I told some of them.

The fans played its expected role in supporting the players and for that Team Melli players showed them respect and went toward both sections to thank the fans.


Carlos Queiroz seems to be calm and collected person during interviews and press conferences. It does not reflect his character on the field and during training with the players. Whatever pros and cons he has , at the end of the day and for what it is worth, he is the perfect coach for Team Melli and I hope his legacy stays in Iran for a long time.

Iranians by nature are not a much disciplined nation in the style of Japanese and Europeans.  That reflects on players naturally. In football, lack of discipline is a recipe for disaster.   Years after years of watching Iranian football, I have detected this lack of discipline in and out of the field by even the most famous and popular players. In fact, the most popular they were and more indiscipline. There is one shining exception in Ali Daei.  Carlos Queiroz has changed all that. He showed and continues showing his players and staff f the meaning of discipline and respect. For that alone, this man deserves accolades and one hopes his legacy in Team Melli stays for a long time to come.


But Queiroz has this other side of his character , the combative !

After the match with Yemen, I was not alone in thinking that there were some wild tackles flying from Iranian players on the opposition. Really uncalled for in a game against weak opposition like Yemen where risks of yellow or even worst red card is present. Many Foreign and Iranian journalist thought that this was not necessarily, while some put it to player’s nerves in the first match.

In the post press conference, however, Queiroz was in total denial mentioning an incident that Azmoun pushed a Yemeni player to the ground. Queiroz defended his star player by saying that the Yemeni player pushed first!!! Mr. Queiroz….this is NOT a school yard where a boy pushes a boy to the ground and beats him up because that boy shoved first. A simple act like that push by Azmoun and he could have ended up in the shower because of violent conduct, subsequently suffering through a day off in the next match.

Arab teams are notoriously famous for provocation and Queiroz after so many years in this area should know much better than excuse his players for retaliation!  Has he already forgotten what happened to Mehrdad Pooladi in Australia against Iraq???

Ben Williams is to retire.

IMAGINE spending more than two decades at the very top of your field, and then when you retire, witnessing widespread celebration you were finally quitting.

That’s life as a football referee and the reality veteran Australian whistleblower Ben Williams faced today after announcing Tuesday night’s International Champions Cup match between Juventus and Tottenham at the MCG would be his last match in Australia.

“After 22 years on the national panels and 12 years as a FIFA referee it feels like the right time to hang up the whistle,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to spending time with my increased family and giving back to them for all the love and support they afforded me throughout my career.”

The referee who cruelly and unfairly red carded Mehrdad Pooladi in the quarter-final match against Iraq , is perhaps the most hated of all the referees by Iranian fans throughout the history.  Not Only this dismissal was unjust to the player, it meant that the team had to play the rest of the match and extra time with one player short. Williams fell a victim of Iraqi goalkeeper play acting and was too naive at the scene. No Iranian will be missing this referee for sure. Good riddance is quite appropriate for a man that has gave a whole nation a hardship.

It’s some resume, but do you think it meant anything to A-League followers on Twitter? Of course not.

Australian betting company sportsbet.com.au — who are always attempting to find the lighter side of moments like this — were particularly savage.

One of their tweets — which included a gif of fans applauding the news — even prompted former ASADA boss Richard Ings to respond: “Why are people so unkind?”

But the betting gurus weren’t the only ones taking shots. This is how Twitter reacted.


Is Ben Williams guide dog also retiring or will he be given to one of the other refs

Mehrdad Pooladi is not coming back!

Much has been said about Team Melli’s left back who was Iran’s best player in the FIFA World Cup 2014. Mehrdad Pooladi was accused by the authorities along with a large number of other footballers of submitting fake documents in order to get exemption from Military Service. The inspection which was carried out in 2014 also named several other Team Melli players like Hossein Mahini and Bakhtiar Rahmani in the list of unlawful certification. Consequently, these players must carry out the mandatory 2 years military service while they are only allowed to play football is limited number of military affiliated clubs like Malavan and Tractorsazi.

Unlike the other players, Pooladi was pursuing his career in Qatar. He was under professional contract for Al Shahaniya team in the QSL. After concerted efforts by the football federation and with support of the Ministry of Youth & Sports , Pooladi was given a special dispensation and allowed to play for Team Melli for the duration of the AFC Asian Cup, on the condition that he completes the compulsory Military Service as soon as football season ends.

 Pooladi played in the Asian Cup and like the World Cup; he was one of the excellent players of the team until that dreaded moment against Iraq. Pooladi managed to get himself red carded in the quarter final match against Iraq to leave his team a man short. The aftermath of the dismissal varied with most fans blaming Australian referee for what seemed to be a harsh and hasty decision. The referee was put under pressure to produce a second yellow card by a number of Iraqi players surrounding him for what seemed to be an innocuous touch between Pooladi and Iraqi goalkeeper. Jalal Hassan Hachim, in goal for Iraq ,  truly dramatized the incident making a real scene and faking injury and pain. Benjamin Williams, under the influence of the Iraqi players, pulled the 2nd yellow for Pooladi and subsequently the red leaving Team Melli to play the full second half and the two extra times and penalties with a man short.

iran-v-iraq penalty takers

Others blamed Pooladi for being sloppy and crude perhaps even cocky. Both of the two cards that he received could have been avoided by a disciplined professional player.  In any case, it was the end the tournament for Pooladi and Team Melli as the penalty kicks were not too kind for Queiroz’s men.

After the Asian Cup Pooladi did not act on his case with the military service commission and did not seek any references for his future. When Queiroz was preparing the team for the European tour, Pooladi was one of his main players on the list, but he was informed that the left back cannot feature for Team Melli unless he sorts out his military service.

Pooladi was procrastinating and seemed to have lost interest in the whole case. He was negatively affected by the bad mouthing he received from some fans while the media was not exactly too kind to him either.  One major sport daily headline read “The deserter is back” when Pooladi was called for duty for the AFC Asian Cup. Not exactly complimentary words for a player who was preparing to represent his country and play for its honor and pride.

Somewhere along the line, Pooladi has made his decision. Calls from the football federation officials asking him about his status with the Military Service and his availability for Team Melli seemed to be answered vaguely or put on hold.

  Pooladi must have made his mind up not to return to Iran. The season ended disappointingly for the ex-Persepolis player. Along with Masoud Shojaei , the Iranian couple could not manage to help Al Shahaniya avoid relegation. His future with his relegated club remains uncertain and so are his days with Team Melli.


It is a shame for Team Melli to lose such a quality player. Carlos Queiroz had a lot of faith in the left back and was his strongest supporter. On the field, Pooladi is robust, consistent and skillful defender. Off the field, he had his fair share of troubles with authority, displaying the same petulant attitude of many talented Iranian footballers.

China’s Tianjin Teda seeking Morteza Pouraliganji

The central defender of Team Melli , Morteza Pouraliganji is being pursued by the Chinese Super league club, Tianjin Teda FC.

Pouraliganji was one of the stars of Team Melli in the AFC Asian Cup. His performance in Australia attracted number of interests from various clubs in the Persian Gulf states and China.  Tianjin Teda has formally submitted an offer but the details are sketchy.

Pouraliganji confirmed that an offer exists from China but said he is unaware of the transfer sum and financial terms between his club Naft Tehran and Tianjin. The  defender who also plays in midfield, has denied all the figures that some Iranian newspapers have published and refered to them as pure fabrication by the media. “The closet person in Naft organization is not yet sure of the final figure and I was not briefed on it fully , so , I don’t know how these people can come up with figures!”

The 23 years old  Pouraliganji said that he is naturally looking to progress in football and enhance his chances in the professional world. “I do not mind playing in China, and that will be my first step towards my ultimate goal and that would be playing in Europe.”

Morteza Pouraliganji is taking a short break to visit his mother in the North before flying to China to close the deal, according to ISNA news agency.

Controversial referee Ben Williams hit back.

Sports editor at The Canberra Times

Canberra referee Ben Williams has retaliated to media commentary of his controversial officiating at the Asian Cup, calling it “ill-informed” and questioning the relevance of some former players in the broadcasting box.

The Asian Football Confederation referee of the year in 2013 and the first Australian to officiate in the second round of a World Cup, in Brazil last year, Williams hit back at knockers who have accused him of being trigger-happy with yellow and red cards.

Former Socceroos and now commentators John Aloisi, Mark Bosnich and Robbie Slater criticised Williams’ handling of the Asian Cup quarter-final between Iran and Iraq at Canberra Stadium, where the whistleblower issued nine yellow cards and a controversial red-card to Iran’s Mehrdad Pooladi.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, fined for criticising Williams in the earlier rounds of the Asian Cup, then asked how the referee could sleep at night after Iran’s 7-6 loss on penalties.

The criticism came after Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold labelled Williams’ “an embarrassment” when he issued a controversial card to Sydney FC defender Nikola Petkovic in the closing stages of an FFA Cup in October last year. The A-League match review panel upheld the decision, but stood Williams down for a game.

Williams hit back in an interview on ABC Radio on Saturday, backing his own ability and taking aim at those making comment from afar.

“I don’t listen to any of the media after any contentious games, I don’t flick on the TV, I don’t read the papers, I don’t get on the internet to see what people have said about me because most of it is negative and most of it’s ill-informed,” Williams said.

“Some of the people who talk in the media have got no idea about refereeing, a lot of them are ex-players who haven’t played for 15 to 20 years and have played in different leagues around the world but don’t have an impact of international football as it currently stands. I’m probably the most qualified to sit back and analyse my own performance, so I do.

“People are entitled to their opinion, football is a game of opinion, some people believe their opinion is greater than others. If you believed everything that was written about you you’d lose your mind.”

“All you can do at the moment is give the decision you believe is best with the information you have at hand. Whatever happens after that, whether it’s coaches getting angry or players getting angry or media beat-up, that’s out of our control.”

Williams said referees, like players, made mistakes. But he felt a referee’s mistake was “seen as taboo”.

“There’s no such thing as a perfect referee because we’re all human as well and we are going to make mistakes, the same as a player. There’s no player who will go through any match and never make a mistake, never turn a ball over or hit one over the cross bar or miss a tackle. We’re all human just like the players.”

FFA Director of Referees Ben Wilson, also of Canberra, is part of a push for soccer to have full-time professional officials.

“He’s been pushing for it as well and it is a matter of time, we hope it happens sooner rather than later,” Williams said.

“It’s not a money hungry selfish grab, trying to earn a contract for football for us. It’s about we want to prepare the best we can so that when we go out on the weekends we know we haven’t left anything to chance.”


Comment on Williams self-defense.

While Williams has the full right to defend himself , and there can’t be too much arguments on the plainly obvious statements that he uttered such ; there is no perfect referee, human error , people are entitled to their opinion;  the Australian referee has shown his class , or lack of it , when he states that he ignores everything and everyone opinion but himself! So , although he talks about players and referees committing mistakes, he seems to have excluded himself normal people and elevated himself to the category beyond the normal. He does not thinks he commits and does not need anyone to tell him that. Any decent professional will always review and analyse his performance to try to mitigate any errors in his performance. Accpeting criticsm is part of that process. Obviously , Williams is different  and judging by his own philosophy , he does not give a hoot about what others think of him !

“Some of the people who talk in the media have got no idea about refereeing” Williams says.

Refereeing is not a nuclear science either and you do not to be a brain surgeon to master it. Football laws are clear and simple enough even for the average layman to understand it. Referees are not elite either and do not have to attend a 3 years university coach to qualify. The main advantage the referee has over the fans is that he is closer to the action, however , with the advent of TV and slo-mo replays , even that advantage is taken away from him.

Instead of admitting that he screwed up and made a mistake , Williams is trying to fool the masses by a rhetoric that simply gives away a lot about his character. uncompromising , error-prone , happy whistle and fast trigger pulling referee. Not at all worthy of refereeing important international matches.




Is there a shift in Iranian fans’ mentality ?

An intriguing enigma has developed lately in Iran’s football that might be the beginning of a new era, at least from the fans side of the, if not with the whole of the system.

Iran has the largest football fan base in Asia, even more that China that has several folds more population. People just love football in this country and if you have ever missed it , you should look at the attendance of the local derby between Perpsolis and Esteghlal , the two highest fanbase teams in Iran and beyond. It is always one of the biggest match attendance in the world.

Persepolis and Esteghlal are the two most popular teams in Iran.


Like many other countries, football fans in Iran have more loyalty to their clubs than the national team. For decades these two teams had a monopoly on the number of players in Team Melli. It was unthinkable of announcing a squad without any player from the reds of Persepolis or the blues of Esteghlal.

Not anymore. The original squad for AFC Asian Cup 2015 did not have a single player from Persepolis. That was a historic first. The trend of breaking the monopoly if the 2 top teams on Team Melli started way back during Branko Ivankovic days and reached its peak a decade or so later during Carlos Queiroz. Former Team Melli managers will deny it, but it is a common knowledge that pressure was excreted upon them to include as many as Persepolis and Esteghlal players in the team to assure the federation of fans attendance and support in the 100,000 capacity Azadi Stadium.

After the elimination of Team Melli from the Asian Cup, Queiroz embarked on a vicious ward of words against Amir Ghalenoei and Hamid Derakhshan accusing them of treachery, amongst many other allegations. Team Melli head coach war of attrition with local club coaches has started sometimes ago, but his conflict with Persepolis and Esteghlal coach seemed to have hit the peak after the failing of the Asian Cup.

Queiroz in a feeble attempt to justify the team’s elimination pointed the fingers at Ghalenoei and Derakhshan as contributory factors to the team’s failure!

Essentially , Queiroz was telling them “You are getting a taste of your own medicine!”

Aside from the others reactions to Queiroz tonguelashing, many Persepolis and Esteghlal fans took exception to it and defended their club coaches, some in fact even marched with banners and had to be restrained by security personnel at the two clubs respective training grounds.

Up to here, the plot is progressing normally as expected under such circumstances but the shock that has awaken everyone was in NAVAD TV show. The popularity of Carlos Queiroz when a poll was conducted in Navad TV reached an overwhelming 88%!

Iran Fans in Doha

Let us carefully run through some facts.

Fact 1) the absolute majority (greater than 80%) of Iranian football fans polled before the Asian Cup, believed that Team Melli will win the title or be in the final match at least. Less than 10% thought Iran will not make it past the quarter finals. So, we assume that 80% of the fans are quite disappointed by the result.

Fact 2) Team Melli has failed to progress beyond the group matches in the World Cup , ranked by FIFA as 31 out of 32 teams with some embarrassing performance figure. It has failed to win any championship or titles, even the good old WAFF championship, failed in Asian Cup , and very miserably so in the Asian Games( U 23 team).

Fact 3) Team Melli has not been displaying a pretty or entertaining football with a stern defensive style and mostly sticking to the same faces and names.

Fact 4) Carlos Queiroz has made more enemies in Iran that anyone can think of. From Omid Namazi , Rahmati , Aghili , Salih etc and all the way to Ali Karimi who abandoned ship in the last hours.

The above mentioned are facts, not speculations or rumors. So, how on earth one can explain the popularity of such a character?

Iran vs nigeria greeting the fans (35 of 36)-3

Is there a shift in mentality in Iranians fans? are they sick of the archaic Iranian establishment ? Are they tired of Iranian coaches and their antics? Are they sending some kind of a message to the hierarchies? Are they “Blue eyes worshippers” as Ghalanoei alleged ?

In Europe and certainly some of the Persian Gulf Countries, National Team Managers that have achieved much better than Queiroz have lost their jobs, yet Iran is an exception. It defies the common logic for a coach to have such popularity without being able to win anything.

Not that Carlos Queiroz is to be blamed for the whole of Iran’s football deficiencies, but in essence, he is part of the system that has disappointed and failed the fans and an important one for that matter. It is criminal to shield him from criticism while blame the failing on the rest of the establishment.

In any case despite the fact that Queiroz has not won anything for Iran, he managed to win the heart of the fans.


Go Figure.

News leaks: AFC awarded UAE the hosting of Asian Cup 2019.

In Sydney , sources have leaked news that the AFC has already decided on the next hosting of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. Two countries have been shortlisted for the hosting, Iran and UAE. Both sides have claimed the support of the majority of the voting associations, but AFC has not indicated anything so far to put some light on the selected host nation. However, the news leak indicates that UAE has a lead on Iran and will be announced as the host in unspecified date.

Most of the work by the inspection teams and their reports are already completed.

Asian Football Confederation (AFC) President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa said a date had not been set for a decision on whether Iran or United Arab Emirates would host the 24-team showpiece event.

“Probably in 2015, by next year we will decide,” the Bahraini royal told reporters in the last AFC gathering in Manila on late November.

Asked if the decision would be made at the AFC’s Congress in January prior to the 16-team Asian Cup, he added: “No. Some time in the middle of the year.”

The UAE are favorites to add yet another sporting event to their resume as hosts, but the Iranian bid claimed to receive support from FIFA President Sepp Blatter, who visited Tehran last year.

Shaikh Salman said he had no preference.

“No we will leave that to the people taking that responsibility. They have to analyze them and bring it to the ex-co so we can decide.”

Hosting the event involves high cost and limits the number of AFC members who can realistically stage it. Australia were the only bidders for the 2015 event and 11 ‘interested’ bids for 2019 quickly became two.

Meanwhile , Australia defeated UAE 2-0 in the second semifinals of the AFC Asian Cup 2015 in Newcastle to set a date with their nemesis South Korea on Saturday for the penultimate match of the competition.

South Korea and Australia have already met in the group stages , with the Koreans narrowly beating the host 1 – 0.

Iraq coach wants rival fans separated for Iran clash in Asian Cup

Lee Gaskin

Sports reporter at The Canberra Times

Iraq coach Radhi Shenaishil has called on Asian Cup organisers to have rival fans seated in different parts of Canberra Stadium for Friday night’s emotion-charged quarter-final with Iran.

Another sold-out crowd of more than 18,000 is expected for the clash of two countries that were at war from 1980 to 1988.

The hostilities have been resolved off the pitch, with Iran taking a 1-0 win against Iraq in a friendly in Wollongong in January as a lead-up to the Asian Cup.

Shenaishil said he wasn’t happy that Iraq supporters were sitting in the same section of the stadium as Palestine fans during his team’s 2-0 win at Canberra Stadium on Tuesday night.

“From an organising point of view, they [the fans] should be separate,” Shenaishil said. “Having both [teams’] fans together doesn’t mean all fans are there to make trouble.

“Sometimes that happens through a misunderstanding. Most of the fans are there to support their team and have a wonderful time but there should be more organisation in regards to separating fans.”

A spokesperson for the local organising committee said there were no plans to segregate fans and that there had been no trouble at all during the tournament.

“Fans of all teams have been colourful and passionate but also sporting and very well-behaved,” the spokesperson said.

“Nothing has happened to suggest this should change.

“We encourage fans from Iran and Iraq to attend the quarter-final in great numbers, to enjoy the football, to cheer on their teams and to do so in a sporting manner – just as they have been doing for the whole tournament.

“This is what watching sport in Australia is all about.”

More than 63,000 people have attended the six games in Canberra so far, including a sold-out crowd of just over 18,000 to see China beat North Korea 2-1.

Iraq finished second in its group behind Japan and is trying to make its record two out three cups – it hoisted the trophy aloft in 2007.

It’s been a far longer wait for Iran, which is aiming to break a 39-year drought after winning three successive tournaments from 1968 to 1976.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said it was important to try to take the emotion out of the game.

“It’s not easy,” he said. “I said to my boys this morning, ‘It’s everything for the winner and nothing for the loser’. The most important thing is to be focused and concentrated in our duties and our tasks.”

Iran is the top-ranked team in Asia at 51st in the world and hasn’t conceded a goal in the tournament through its opening three games.

Shenaishil said it wasn’t fair his team had one day fewer for preparation than Iran for the quarter-final and believed it should be changed for future tournaments.

He also said the instability and conflict in Iraq would be a positive for his team’s performance.

“It gives us more of a push to bring happiness and a positive result to our country in this competition,” Shenaishil said.

“There’s history between the two teams. I want to see a quality match and give the right impression of the football in Asia.”

The winner of the Iran-Iraq quarter-final will play either South Korea or Uzbekistan in the first semi-final at Sydney on Australia Day.

Team Melli prospects.

What have we learned from the 2 victories?

Team Melli has completed its initial task with full mark. Qualification to the quarter finals of the AFC Asian Cup, the 6th in a row since 1996, was achieved with the 1-0 win against Qatar in a match that will always be remembered for the wonder goal scored by young Sardar Azmoun.


With the place in quarter finals assured, Queiroz must be re-thinking some of his plans to prepare for the next round. His solid defenses are intact and the least of his worries despite the new look line up with Pouraliganji and Ghafoori replacing the old hands and doing a very admirable job so far. Haghighi at goal, despite one or two scares was not really tested in the two matches, however in the few occasions that he had to act; he was well positioned to protect his goal. Haghighi’s agility and prowess on aerial balls gives the defense so much confidence that it lacked in the last few years. So, with the back line as is, Queiroz needs to shift his focus elsewhere. The predicaments start after passing the back line.

Ando Teymourian

The midfield is still the most worrying of the 3 lines and found wanting time and again. It has no quality playmaker and more often than not, it lacked leadership. For Teymourian and Nekounam despite their gallant attempts to put up a decent performance, both are clearly lacking match fitness and suffering from a dip in forms.  On the flanks, much was expected from Dejagah on the right and Hajsafy on the left , but the Qatar match , showed their limitations when the opposition’s coach decides to deploy a tight man to man marking at them. Both performed well below expectations. Dejagah who was one of the stars of the match against Bahrain tormenting their left back, was a different man altogether with young Qatari Defender AbdulKarim leaving him helpless while breathing down his neck all the time. Hajsafy , seems to be still under the influence of his wonder goal against Bahrain and has not shown much industry on the left hand side. Shojae, remains the biggest liability for the team. His contribution is marginal. He is a player who is Short of breath, easily beaten on the ball, unable to dribble or run when it is really required and lacks stamina. Such act cannot be of the big matches standard and quality.

Ashkan Dejagah

With such a midfield, Sardar Azmoun was isolated up front and really lacked quality service to show his worth. On the one occasion that he was served well, ironically from Dejagah, the whole world saw what this young man is capable of. Smart, swift and clever striker who finished in style. Unfortunately, that was the only occasion he was provided well, then got himself injured.

What options is left for Queiroz? To start with, give Shojaei a much needed rest and introduce some fresh legs and quality player in the shape of Alireza Jahanbakhsh. We dared Queiroz to do it in the forward line and use Azamoun, and he did it successfully. Now, Jahanbakhsh is ready for his turn and rearing to go. In fact, he has more advantage over Azmoun in the form of more playing time in the Dutch league.  Khosrow Heydari is another option to replace Shojaei.

Apart from that, there is not too much riches available to Queiroz.

One thing that clearly disturbed the Portuguese coach of Team Melli in Qatar match and the TV cameras caught his frustration quite well, was the failure of the team to keep the possession of ball in the last part of the match. The Team Melli players kept losing the ball.  The haste at which the players were clearing the ball, the aimless passes with Ghoochannejad and Dejgah being the main culprits, and failure to play short passes resulted in Qatar taking advantage and the full control of the match in the dying minutes. This is a very risky situation with a one goal margin.

Queiroz was so frustrated and nervous that he had to introduce a fifth defender to kill the game in the final minutes and protect his slim lead. This is one shortcoming of Iranians that have marred their play for several generations now. Keep the ball and protect a tight result.

The final match against UAE would be yet another interesting test for Queiroz. In reality, it does not make any difference if they end up playing Japan, the defending champions or Iraq. Both are difficult opponents and at some stage, Iran has to beat these teams if they have any aspiration to lift the trophy after 40 years.

So far, none of the contenders has shown to be a class above the rest. Australia, South Korea, China, Japan and Iran are quite close and matches between them can go anywhere.

One advantage that Team Melli has, is the outstanding and the superb crowds that have been adding so much color, and life to this tournament. Team Melli fans might even outnumber the host if Iran makes it to the final match with Australia. Simply a great act by the Australian Iranians and a symphony in motion.


Sydney: Qatar’s heavy defeat at the hands of the United Arab Emirates has not lulled Iran coach Carlos Queiroz into expecting anything other than a challenging encounter when his team face off against the Gulf Cup holders in their Group C meeting at Stadium Australia on Thursday.

The UAE handed the Qataris a 4-1 thrashing in their clash in Canberra on Sunday while Iran earned a 2-0 victory over Bahrain in Melbourne that leaves Team Melli knowing victory over Djamel Belmadi’s side will take them into the quarter-finals.

Queiroz has a full squad available to him after Andranik Teymourian shook off the effects of fatigue from the opening game, with cramping keeping him out of Tuesday’s training session, and the Portuguese coach believes his side face a tough challenge against the 2011 quarter-finalists.

“The game was one of those games, it’s a result that happens. It could go in both directions,” said the former Real Madrid coach. “UAE played well. They played the aces they should play, but the result does not show exactly what happened in the game. We don’t follow that trend.

“Qatar are a good team with good players, good coaches and in the last 14 games they won eight games and drew four and only lost against UAE and in another game. That shows that the team is very strong, they are a good team that will create a lot of problems for us for sure. We know the quality of the Qatar team.

“But the most important thing for us is knowing that you play Qatar tomorrow, and to know what we’re going to do tomorrow. It’s not about Qatar tomorrow (Thursday), it’s about us and how we’re going to express our game and play and have fun and play quality football and put that on the pitch.

“I prefer to be focused on my team, not so much concerned on the team from Qatar. We know they had a bad result, but bad results don’t show that a team is bad, just like a good result doesn’t show a team is good. Since yesterday we have only had one thing in mind: the Iran national team and how we are going to play against Qatar.”

Iran impressed in their opening game of the tournament and Queiroz will be encouraging his players to express themselves in a similar manner against the Qataris.

“We try to put in practice on the pitch a simple and accurate plan,” he said. “We have a team, we need to express our football with discipline with organisation and with something special in mind, to do our best in 90 minutes to try and win the game and this is the plan. This is what I used to say to my players.

“According to the limits of the team spirit and the team principles they must express themselves and fly and swim free because they have a team behind them and they must play for them. The plan is simple. They know we have in front of us one national team with a very, very deep and strong preparation.

“Fourteen games in the legs is a serious preparation to play this Asian Cup. Good players. They have achieved good results in the last 14 games, so we know that the answer can be: Do it together, united and together as a team.”