Tag: AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023

Super Jordan stun Korea Republic to reach historic final

Al Rayyan

Goals from Yazan Al Naimat and Mousa Al Tamari secured Jordan a sensational 2-0 win over Korea Republic as the West Asian side advanced to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ final at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday.

A dominant performance from start to finish saw Jordan upstage a Korea Republic side who simply couldn’t match the pace and determination of their opponents, who booked a spot in the AFC Asian Cup final for the first time in history.

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Jordan didn’t waste time in taking the game to Korea Republic, with their fast start almost catching the East Asian side by surprise, Al Naimat’s low strike in the fourth minute from just inside the area forcing goalkeeper Jo Hyeon-woo into a diving save.

The West Asian side looked dangerous every time they transitioned into attack with Al Tamari waltzing his way past three defenders before setting up Noor Al Rawabdeh, who brought the best out of Jo.

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Korea Republic slowly grew into the match, with Son Heung-min’s effort in the 19th minute ruled out for offside while Lee Kang-in failed to find the target from inside the box in the 24th minute.

Jordan, however, looked menacing each time they ventured forward but wasted a flurry of chances, with Al Naimat missing from inside the area before pulling his effort just wide in the 27th minute, while Al Tamari blazed his shot over the bar from just above the box.

At the other end, Korea Republic had a penalty overruled following a VAR review in the 30th minute before Lee Jae-Sung hit the upright from Hwang In-beom’s cross.

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A mazy Al Naimat run in the 43rd minute saw him waltzing past three defenders into the six-yard-box before unleashing a powerful drive straight into Jo, with the rebound falling nicely for Al Rawabdeh but his effort struck the Korea Republic custodian before going out of play. 

Despite having mostly played second fiddle, Korea Republic should have taken the lead into the break but Seol Young-woo’s cross from the flank was sent skywards by Hwang. 

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Jordan’s pace at the start of the second half was not as intense but they continued to dictate terms, with Korea Republic struggling to keep the ball.

The West Asian side’s positive play finally delivered dividends in the 53rd minute when Al Tamari pounced on a poor back pass from Jung Seung-Hyunto to send a well-timed pass to Al Naimat, who lobbed the ball over the advancing Jo for the opening goal.

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Having fallen behind for the fifth time in six matches, Korea Republic sent on Cho Gue-sung to add more depth to their attacks but the No 9 failed to find the target at the hour mark when he sent his headed attempt off Kang-in’s corner over the bar.

That was to prove costly as Jordan struck again six minutes later, Al Tamari brilliantly cutting inside from just above the area before unleashing a low drive past a despairing Cho.

Korea Republic’s attempts to find a way back were easily repelled from there on as Jordan held on for a well deserved place in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 final. 

Japan’s Ito out of the squad following sexual assault allegations.

【Doha 2nd Feb】In response to reports of allegations of sexual assault, midfielder Junya ITO (30 years old Stade de Reims player, who announced his withdrawal from the Japan national team for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar on the previous day, canceled the decision and officially decided to withdraw on this day 3rd February. Coach Hajime MORIYASU (55) of the Japan National Team announced the decision.

He took the stage at the press conference before the quarterfinal match against Iran. From the first question, I was asked about Ito by the foreign media.

“I wanted to stand with Junya ITO until the end of this tournament and fight together to win the championship, but after discussions, the JFA (Japan Association) decided that it is best to withdraw him from the tournament as a result of his desire, and they agreed, and it was decided that he would leave tomorrow’s match without playing with us.”

“In terms of the impact on the team, he is a player who has contributed to the team’s fight to win so far, so it hurts and I feel sorry for him, but I want to think about his physical and mental health. We have some great players left, so I’m not worried at all about the fact that they will be able to play as hard as they can in tomorrow’s match against Iran.”

“I’ve been talking to him about his health, but I don’t think he’s in a state of mind where he’s going to play football at high intensity. We will do our best to support you. We’ll see how he can perform at the top as soon as possible.”

The newspaper Lunion, a local newspaper in Reims, France published comments from Stade Reims coach Still and Ito’s teammate goalkeeper Yevan Diouf.

The newspaper explained how Ito left the Japan national team and said, “Reims coach Still showed a cautious attitude when questioned at a press conference on Friday (2nd), two days after the match against Toulouse on Sunday (4 p.m.). “As long as I don’t have contact with him (Ito), I don’t have much to say,” the coach was quoted as saying.

According to the newspaper, Still said: “We will follow the statement issued by the club, we are waiting to see what is going on, but we do not know enough to give an opinion. I haven’t seen Junya for a month and I don’t know what happened at all,” he said at a press conference.

The newspaper also referred to goalkeeper Diouf’s remarks. Diouf told a press conference: “We hope he (Ito) is innocent because this is serious. The presumption of innocence must be considered. Unless there is a verdict, it cannot be said whether he is innocent or guilty. When he returns, he will be greeted as usual. The situation is delicate for everyone, but it’s best for the courts to do their job. I have nothing else to comment on.”

Japan’s Achilles Heel

Doha (AFP) – Japan’s Asian Cup risks being fatally undermined by coach Hajime Moriyasu’s reliance on an error-prone rookie goalkeeper and he has left himself with no convincing alternatives.

Japan goalkeeper Zion Suzuki has struggled at the Asian Cup in Qatar
The pre-tournament favourites face Iran on Saturday in the quarter-finals but serious questions hang over 21-year-old Zion Suzuki, whose confidence looks shot.

Japan have yet to keep a clean sheet in Qatar and the goalkeeper’s mistakes have cost them at least one goal in every game so far.

Suzuki, whose father is Ghanaian-American and mother Japanese, has been racially abused online.

But even if Moriyasu wanted to take Suzuki out of the firing line, he has left himself with two backups who have only one international cap between them.

The coach is paying the price for failing to settle on a number one before the tournament and now faces a decision whether to stick or twist against Iran.

Suzuki, in his eighth appearance for Japan, was involved in a mix-up with a team-mate that led to an own goal in the 3-1 win over Bahrain in the last 16 on Wednesday.

Writing in Nikkan Sports, columnist Sergio Echigo said Suzuki had become “a concern”.

“He’s not so good at dealing with balls played in from the wings,” he wrote.

“If you look at these four games, his positioning, judgement, timing and hand-eye co-ordination have all been off.”

Suzuki plays for Belgian side Sint-Truiden and went into the Asian Cup with only four international appearances under his belt.

Of the two other goalkeepers in Moriyasu’s squad, Daiya Maekawa has one cap and Taishi Brandon Nozawa has yet to make his Japan debut.

The coach has used five different goalkeepers since Japan’s last-16 exit at the 2022 World Cup just over a year ago.

Of those, Sanfrecce Hiroshima’s Keisuke Osako is currently injured but Europe-based pair Daniel Schmidt and Kosuke Nakamura were left out of the Asian Cup squad.

Shuichi Gonda has not featured at all since playing for Japan at the World Cup, with Moriyasu ruling him out on the grounds that he plays in the J-League second division.
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Speaking after Japan qualified for the Asian Cup last 16, Moriyasu said he had made his choice based on the “past, present and future”.

“Zion has been playing regularly in Europe and I think he was the only one — he was in the best condition,” said Moriyasu.

“There are others in Europe but they weren’t getting regular games. If you look at the J-League goalkeepers, they were all in their off-season.”

Japan have never had a clearly established number one goalkeeper since Moriyasu took over in 2018.

Eiji Kawashima played at three World Cups and hung on to compete with Gonda and Schmidt for the starting job in the 2022 edition.

Now Moriyasu finds himself with an inexperienced group to choose from as Japan chase a record-extending fifth Asian Cup.

He made Suzuki his number one only two games before the tournament kicked off.

“If I asked everyone to choose who is the number one, two and three, I think everyone would have a different answer,” said Moriyasu.

Suzuki has faced up to his critics, accepting that he is “held to a higher standard” as Japan’s number one.

The columnist Echigo said that Suzuki should “practise penalties because that’s how Japan went out of the World Cup.

“With penalties the ball comes straight at you, so maybe that’s where Suzuki’s strengths lie.”

ایران و جابان شنبه ساعت 15 براب هم کار کرین کریت.

Iran vs Japan : Head to Head stats

Team Melli will meet Japan tomorrow for a place in the semi finals of the 18th AFC Asian Cup.

It is also the clash between the number one ranked Asian Team team and number two. The two Asian Gians have played each others 18 times since 1951 Asian Games Semi-Finals in India. Iran won the replayed match 3-2. The records is balanced with 6 wins, draws and losses each. The only advantah=ge is that Japan has a goal difference of +2.

The last time the two teams met was in the semi-final of the last AFC Asian Cup where Japan comprhensively beat Carlo Queiroz team, 3-0 in Al Ain. The last time Iran wom was back in 2005 in Azadi Stadium in the qualifiers of the FIFA World Cup 2006.

Lately, the Japanese have been the talk of the football world with their superb results against many major teams of the world. The stabilty in the coaching staff, Japanese discipline, European experinced players and the work rate of the team has made them a force to be reckoned with.

IT was a shocking result when Japan lost to Jordan i n the group stages. It was the frist loss to any team in over 15 matches.

Iran has not lost since Amir Ghalenoei took over in March 2022. Those good results of Team Melli included acomprhensive wins against teams that are alread in the quarter finals stage of the AFC Asian Cup 2023. A 4-0 and 3-1wins against win Qatar and Jordan repectively and an away draw 2-2 against Uzbekistan.

Despite being the two top teams in AFC zone by FIFA ranking, it is clear from recent results that they are are far from invincible. The match on the 3rd will be a major clash and an early final. It will also be a shrewed batte between the coaches of the two teams Hajime Moriyasu and Amir Ghalenoei.

Summary of matches

VenueMatches playedWonDrawnLostGoalsGD
Home 31205 – 4+1
Away40032 – 7-5
Neutral1153312 – 10+2
Total1866619 – 21-2


DateComp.H / A / NFinal scoreStadiumAttendance
28.01.2019Asian Cup / Semi FinalA0 – 3Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain23262
13.10.2015FriendlyH1 – 1Azadi Stadium , Tehran15000
17.08.2005World Cup Qualifier / Second RoundA1 – 2Nissan Stadium , Yokohama65000
25.03.2005World Cup Qualifier / WCQH2 – 1Azadi Stadium, Tehran120000
28.07.2004Asian Cup / Group DN0 – 0Olympics Sport Centre , Chongqing52000
11.08.1999Friendly / FriendlyA1 – 1International Stadium, Yokohama35860
16.11.1997World Cup Qualifier / Play-OffN2 – 3Larkin Stadium-Johor Bahru22000
18.10.1993World Cup Qualifier / Second RoundN2 – 1Al Khalifa Stadium , Doha15000
03.11.1992Asian Cup / Group AA0 – 1Big Arch Stadium , Hiroshima37000
01.10.1990Asian Games / Quarter FinalsN1 – 0Fengtai Sports Center-Beijing10000
20.01.1989FriendlyH2 – 2Azadi Stadium, Tehran50000
04.12.1988Asian Cup / Group 1N0 – 0Qatar FC Stadium , Doha4000
22.09.1986Asian Games / Group DN2 – 0Hanbat Stadium, Daejeon30000
20.11.1982Asian Games / Group DN0 – 1Modeltown Stadium-New Delhi10000
18.12.1966Asian Games / Semi FinalN1 – 0Tarua Football Stadium-Bangkok20000
11.12.1966Asian Games / Group BN1 – 3Chulalongkon University Stadium-Bangkok10000
08.03.1951Asian Games / Semi-Final replayN3 – 2Ambedkar Stadium -New Delhi30000
07.03.1951Asian Games / Semi FinalN0 – 0Ambedkar Stadium – New Delhi23000

Why the shortfalls in Team Melli?

It was a difficult win for Team Melli against Syria. We have expected as much from a resolute team with a shrewd Argentine coach who has tons of experience at the international level. Syria performed as expected. Tight and compact defending with an eye on the counterattack against an aging and slow Iranian defense.  

That is exactly what happened in the match. Team Melli had difficulty breaking the Syrian defenses, and when they did, the finishing was poor. The surprise or more precisely, the disappointment was the performance deterioration of the senior players of Team Melli. While there was so much expected of the stars such as Taremi, Ghoddos, Rezaeian, and Azmoun, the return was less than desirable.

Nowadays, it seems that it is anyone’s guess which Team Melli will turn up at a match. They have been inconsistent varying from the embarrassing to excellent. On Wednesday, the match contained all the elements in 180 minutes of play.

It all started brightly and looked promising for Team Melli. The players distributed the ball elegantly, the passing was accurate so was the interplay, they managed to break the Syrian defense several times but poor final ball and finishing was a serious flaw in what was a good first half.

In the first 15 minutes of the second half, it was a repeat of the first until that penalty incident on the hour.

Slowly but surely, the performance deteriorated. Profligate, a touch of arrogance, and a lack of application marred Team Melli’s performance. When simple passing was much more productive than sending the ball across the field when standing your ground during a tackle is more beneficial than diving, and when covering an opponent seems to be basic and more important than going forward and leaving a wide space behind, those were the elementary errors committed by many of the Iranian players.

Beiranvand was the rescuer of the team when he saved a penalty, but he was guilty of a wild unnecessary tackle on the Syrian player during the game. Taremi is a well-known diver. It is his trademark and by doing so in front of an eagle-eyed Korean referee, he got himself into trouble and a yellow card. By the end of the regulation time, that cheating got quite expensive for Team Melli as his holding of the Syrian player to prevent a counterattack, got him the second yellow and was dismissed. Iran was down to 10 players for 10 minutes of added time and the whole of the extra time!

Azmoun looked like a player who was strange to international football. He could not make any of his shots on goal count. When he had the chance (s) it was feeble kicks straight at the Syrian keeper.

Ghoddos who is supposed to be the dynamo of the team was neutralized and failed to offer anything of significance. At times he was seen strolling in the park! Rezaeian, so pacey, so precise in his crosses was error-prone, inaccurate, and at times far too overhyped for nothing.

Khalilzadeh was gallant, but it was his mistake that led to the penalty by Beirnavand who tripped the Syrian Sabbagh.

Ezatollahi, always a weak link in Team Melli, was unconvincing in front of an opponent that lacked firepower. Time and again he lost positions and the one-to-one duels once again showing that this post requires a player several notches above what Ezatollahi is capable of providing. Jahanbakhsh was much better than his last few matches but still failed to make an impact.

Gholizadeh was a revelation but did not last long as the substitute was substituted. Ghalenoei needs to readdress such a futile move.

The fans and critics have the right to wonder, what was going on with Team Melli?

Factually, Iran had more than 70% of the ball in the first half. They were the dominant team, creating chance after chance but the finishing was weak and lacked accuracy and resolve. There is even a hint that the Iranian Players took the Syrians too lightly.

There comes the role of a strong Manager-Coach. Was the team ill-prepared for this match? Was the team’s physiological preparation adequate for such an important clash?

There is a hint from the post-match remarks that Ghaleneoi was less than happy with the player’s attitude and he specifically singled out the senior players without naming them. It was a breath of fresh air for an Iranian coach to spell the beans and criticize the performance of players when they failed to deliver. The usual narrative of “Our players were excellent”, “ it was only bad luck that we lost”, “The referee was against us”, and “the pitch was too rough and the sky was cloudy.” is such a tedious repetition and insult to fans intelligence that no person pays any attention too anymore.

Ghalneoei must be given some credit for that. He should be using the hair-dryer approach against any poorly performing player, even to the extent of benching them. It is about time that such elements be put down in their place.  

We must not forget the role of the local media in the complacency of Team Melli who have never failed to over-hype Team Melli and its players.  Such praises end up fueling players’ arrogance on and off the field. I have heard ridiculous claims on TV and read much such nonsense in the press glorifying Team Melli. The little true journalism that is published, the ones that truly reflect the status of the team is buried under the huge piles of praise and glory for Team Melli and derision and belittling of opponents. The biggest example was the CAFA league which exposed this mentality.

All that does not mean that Team Melli is bad, in fact, it is still a force to reckon with in Asia. Japan will be a great test of character for all involved. In two days, not much can be mended, however, a good serious talk and a few tactical adjustments will do a world of good for the squad. In Taremi’s absence, perhaps a major tactical change is required. This time, there is no fear of undermining the opponent as the players and the managers all know that they are facing a mighty team, admittedly better than Team Melli in many departments.

Taremi’s brace sinks the UAE

Al Rayyan: A Mehdi Taremi double earned Iran a 2-1 win over the United Arab Emirates in Group C of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ at Education City Stadium on Tuesday.

Taremi opened his Qatar 2023 account in the 25th minute, moving behind the Emirati defence to take advantage of an intelligent Sardar Azmoun pass before coolly slotting home.

Team Melli thought they had doubled their lead in the 33rd minute when Ehsan Hajsafi’s whipped delivery from the left was headed home by Ali Gholizadeh, but following a VAR check, the goal was ruled out for offside.

Coach Amir Ghalenoei’s men started the second half the same way they finished the first and were within a whisker of doubling their lead when Azmoun pounced on a poor clearance on the edge of the Emirati area and hit on the half-volley, but his effort passed just wide.

It was the UAE who had the best chance of the early proceedings of the second period when Yahya Al Ghassani was brought down inside the box by Hossein Kanaani. Al Ghassani stepped up to take the resulting penalty, but his attempt was saved by an excellent diving save from Alireza Beiranvand.

Team Melli’s star duo Azmoun and Taremi combined again to make it 2-0 in the 65th minute when the AS Roma forward cut inside and fed his teammate with a well-weighted pass and Taremi emphatically converted into the roof of the net to double Team Melli’s advantage.

UAE goalkeeper was called upon to make a flying reflex save in the 73rd minute to deny Ramin Rezaeian’s curled free-kick from the left side.

Another VAR call had a goal from substitute Mohammad Mohebi overturned after the Iranian forward was deemed to have fouled Khalid Al Hashemi inside the box in the build-up before he struck the rebound home after Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s initial shot hit the crossbar.

Al Ghassani made up for his missed penalty kick with a decisive goal in added time of the second half as he broke free down the left, cutting inside on his right foot and finding the far corner with his finish to half the deficit.

Despite the defeat, the UAE join their opponents in the Round of 16 as Group C runners-up, edging out Palestine on goal difference after the Palestinians beat Hong Kong, China 3-0 in the simultaneous kick-off at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium.

There was joy for Palestine though as they confirmed a first ever knockout stage appearance as one of the best four third-placed teams. 

Team Melli sweats it to narrowly defeat Hong Kong!

Team Melli beat Hong Kong 1-0 in its second match of Group C of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023 at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

The only goal of the match was scored by Mehdi Ghayedi in the 24th minute. With this win, Iran has 6 points and is leading the group ahead of UAE with 4 points. The group decider will be against the UAE where Team Mlli needs one point to maintain the top position in the group while the UAE has to win to lead Group C.

In one of the worst performances by Team Melli in recent times, the Ghalenoei team was weak in every aspect of the professional game. Be it the passing, mental agility, tactical discipline, tackling, man marking and agility.

Since Ghalenoei is the responsible person for selecting the players to start the match and for the game plan, it was a bad mark for the Head Coach who has yet to taste defeat since he took over more than a year ago. These days have an eerily remanence of his last time at the helm of Team Melli in 2006 to 2007 ., where the team was performing near perfection until he fell in the last hurdle against South Korea in the Penalty kicks at the quarter-final of the Asian Cup 2007. Most of the criticism back then was targeted at Ghalenoei as he was accused of failing to instill discipline in his team with players acting up in the penalty kicks amongst other shortfalls in the Asian Cup 2007.

In this match, the fans were expecting a bonanza of goals, or at least as many as the team scored against Palestine last time out. But instead, and from kick-off, it seemed that the engines of Team Melli lacked oiling, perhaps needing a major overhaul.

One positive aspect of Ghalenoei’s selection is the replacement of Ezatollahi with the much more versatile Cheshmi, despite a few initial errors at the beginning of the game by the Esteghlal holding midfielder. But most of the problems were in Saman Ghoddos who was the MVP of the last game, but in this one, he decided to have a day off! His passing, vision, and dynamism were truly lacking. There was no help from Jahanbakhsh either, Ghaedi was perhaps the only bright star of the whole team and his goal was a testament to his enterprise and energy.

Mehdi Taremi has not done anything to mitigate the fears of the fans who believe that he is not a man for big occasions. Taremi, regrettably, is looking like an amateur league player in Team Melli Jersey. He has yet to score or provide an assist in the last two matches. He seemed to be unaware of Shahriyar Moghanlou’s existence in the same team or maybe they were not on speaking terms. There was little passing and understanding between the two forwards. That in itself brings on the question of why Moghanlou if Azmoun is fit and ready.? Nothing of worth came from Jahanbakhsh either.

If that was bad, the worst line of the team was undoubtedly the defense line. How lucky Team Melli was in facing a team that could not shoot straight in Hong Kong? From the shakey Beiranvand to the clumsy Kanani, and wayward Mohammadi, to the disorganization and lack of understanding between the players in a systematic defense, all those were a recipe for disaster. Hong Kong, despite the gallant attempts, just lacked the quality to take advantage of all the gifts awarded to them by the benevolent Team Melli defense.

Iran’s defense is truly on shaky ground. They were supposed to have an easy day out supplementing the offensive line, but the reality is that they were quite lucky not to concede goals. That might not be the case next time or in the knockout stages where it is quite likely that defensive blunders will cost Team Melli dearly.

Ghalneoei himself did not fare well either. He was visibly angry on the bench and at times covering his face in embarrassment. If we have to go by the cliche about ‘Second Halves’ being the coach’s half, then the Norwegian Jorn Andersen beat Ghalenoei hands down. He skillfully reorganized his team in the second half, found the weakness of the Iran team, and tightened his central defense while exerting pressure on the flanks to prevent danger from Iranian wingers and half-backs., The only thing that he fell short of, as mentioned before, was the lack of finishers in his team in front of the Iran goal.

Hong Kong has to be credited for this performance.

Iran v Hong Kong updates

Team Melli will play its second match in Group C of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 against Hong Kong at 20:30 local time today. Following Iran’s 4-1 win against Palestine, this match will be the confirmation of qualification to the next round in case of a win.

Shoja’a Khalilzadeh has been added to the injury list of Team Melli after the central defender received a knock in the match against Palestine. He is not available for tonight’s match and his replacement will be Seyed Majid Hosseini.

Mehdi Torabi who was not included in the Palestine match due to an injury, is also available for selection by the coaches.

Khalilzadeh is not the only change in the expected lineup as two key players are available and will most probably start the game. After fully recovering from his slight injury, Ramin Rezaiean will be one of the starters. The right winger played a few minutes in the previous game and showed no sign of any problems.

Also, Sardar Azmoun will be starting the game along with Mehdi Taremi. Karim Ansarifard will return to the bench. Azmoun was the last player to join the squad, hence Ghalenoei opted to use him in the second half against Palestine.

Against Hong Kong, there is also a possibility of a change in the middle of the field, where Team Melli lacks dynamism and energy with Saman Ghoddos taking the full burden. The defensive midfield needs to be better equipped, hence the chances of dropping the ineffective Ezatollahi are quite high.

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.

AFC Asian Cup: Hong Kong midfielder Chan vows team will stick with fast-and-furious style for daunting Iran encounter

  • Hong Kong are expected to lose their second Group C game, but Philip Chan says there is no thought of damage limitation
  • Defender Oliver Gerbig says team ‘belong at this level’ following fine UAE showing

Paul McNamara

Philip Chan Siu-kwan said Hong Kong would go into their AFC Asian Cup clash with Iran on Friday bearing no ill effects from a controversial opening defeat by United Arab Emirates in Qatar.

And the midfielder, whose strike in Sunday’s 3-1 loss was the national team’s first in the tournament since 1968, was backed up by defender Oliver Gerbig, who said the result proved Hong Kong “belong at this level”.

Conventional wisdom suggests Hong Kong’s best option would be to try and limit the damage against Iran, with a view to pushing for victory over Palestine in their last Group C fixture on Monday.00:29

A win, coupled with a relatively healthy goal difference, could see them squeeze into the last 16 as one of the strongest third-placed finishers.

But Chan, a totem of Jorn Andersen’s fast-and-furious philosophy, said there was no temptation to ease off against the tournament’s second-highest-ranked team, who started their campaign with a 4-1 win over Palestine.

“It is going to be a very tough game, but look at our performance against UAE, there were no restraints,” Chan said. “There is no turning back now. We are going to challenge every team in the group stage, and try to get to the last-16.

“I know my teammates, and have no doubt we will not be mentally affected by anything that happened against UAE.

“We have made big improvements with the coach [Andersen], and done a really good job building this team. We used to be more conservative, but now we are trying to move forward, take shots on goal, and show the best of ourselves.”

Andersen identified Chan early as a player carved in his favoured aggressive mould. Of the 31-year-old’s 19 international appearances, 17 have come since the Norwegian took charge two years ago.

“I would not speak for myself, but whoever the coach picks, the minimum requirement is to be aggressive, and to not be conservative, which is a good thing in football,” Chan said. “We have to try to win in every game, and show we are capable of competing.”

Gerbig is the bolter in Andersen’s team. He was out of the squad as recently as September, and across four matches in the October and November international windows spent only one minute on the field.

Oliver Gerbig muscled his way into the Hong Kong team after impressive pre-tournament form. Photo: Xinhua

The 25-year-old impressed in a pre-tournament camp to the extent head coach Andersen called Gerbig “the winner from our preparations”.

Gerbig won his third cap against UAE, and, although the victim of a harsh first-half penalty decision, was solid in the heart of defence.

“I think we belong [at this level],” Gerbig said. “We wanted at least a point against UAE, but it was a positive performance. We put up a fight and showed we are not easy to play against. At 1-0 and 2-1 down, we said to keep believing and pushing. That is the mentality of this team; we keep going.

“We are improving and have shown we can play at this level, and that Hong Kong has good football players.”

Kitchee player Gerbig exemplified the “keep going” mantra when he was exiled from the national team squad.

“I put my head down, kept working and waited for my chance,” he said.

“I believed in my ability, but had to show it to the coach and earn his trust. The training camp was intense, with a lot of running. I worked on things the manager wants from his defenders, and my physicality and aggression improved.”