Tag: Amir Ghalenoei

What is required for Qatar?

Team Melli’s done it again, folks — they’ve blasted their way into the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup in Qatar, just like they pulled off in 2019. And guess what? They’re just one heart-thumping match away from hitting the finals for the first time in a whopping 48 years. Feels like forever since they last made it this far back in 1976, right?

So, mark your calendars for Wednesday, because Iran’s squaring off against the home team, Qatar, in the semis. And yeah, while we did give them a 4-0 drubbing recently in Amman, don’t kid yourself thinking this rematch is in the bag. We’re talking about a fresh showdown at Al Thumama Stadium, and this ain’t gonna be a walk in the park. We’re in for a slugfest that’s gonna be gritty, fierce, and all kinds of intense. And if it comes down to penalties, you better buckle up — it’s gonna be edge-of-your-seat stuff. All that jazz about Iran’s past domination? Throw it out the window, because when that whistle blows, it’s anybody’s game.

 It is a new chapter and a new game.

The heartwarming aspect from inside the camp is that Coach Ghalenoei has acknowledged the significance of psychology within his squad. While the emotional side of the game hasn’t traditionally been a strong point for the Iranian team, their recent victory against Japan showcased the grit, determination, and discipline of Team Melii players. As they face Qatar, who have the home advantage and crowd support, maintaining this mental fortitude will be crucial. In terms of player abilities and skills, Team Melli holds a clear edge. However, the potential pitfall lies in other factors that could affect their performance.

The physical side of the game is also an advantage for Iran, What are the potential fail points, though, are these factors:

  •  Arrogance
  •  Undermining the opposition
  •  Discipline failure.

Although the technical and tactical aspects of the game are important, Ghalenoei has greatly improved his reputation in this tournament by making smart decisions even under pressure. It is hoped that he will continue to follow this strategy and build upon it in the final match. This game will be crucial in terms of mental preparedness and emotional intelligence, as even a single mistake could mean the end of the team’s dreams. Iran has come close to advancing to the finals and winning the title in many AFC Asian Cups, but has always fallen short. However, a great team can create its own luck and emerge victorious despite any setbacks. Considering the fact that this match is being hosted by Qatar, it is likely that the refereeing may be biased towards them. It is important for the players to understand this and avoid making unnecessary protests against the referee. Additionally, the use of VAR technology may also work against Team Melli.

The defenders must be extra careful not to commit fouls in the penalty area. In the last five games, two penalties have been called against Iran, and such statistics are considered risky. Players’ behavior is of utmost importance.
The sweet win against Japan should not overshadow the fact that Team Melli still has problems in several areas. Players need to forget Japan completely and prepare for Qatar. Japan is history, and the result will not guarantee success against Qatar, which is ranked 58, 37 ranks below Iran (ranked 21).

Throughout various matches, we’ve observed Team Melli perform inconsistently, sometimes playing well in the first half and poorly in the second, or vice versa. It’s crucial for Ghaleneoi to not only select the best players but also to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the Qatar team and choose players who are better suited to face their style of play, even if they are not necessarily the most skilled players in the squad.

Qatar is expected to employ a similar strategy to Syria, which involves maintaining a compact defense and relying on its fast forwards for quick counterattacks. This tactic was successful for Syria, as they were able to frustrate Iran. It is crucial for all Team Melli players to be aware of these tactics, and patience will be essential in this match. This game presents the best chance for Iran to qualify for the finals of the Asian Cup, and it would be a shame to see this opportunity lost due to careless mistakes that have been made before.

A grand performance by the boys deserving of champion.

The win against a Japanese team, which has dominated Iran for many years including that bitter defeat in Ali Ain in the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019, was a big relief in all senses.

In the best performances of Team Melli in Asian Cup so far, Mohebbi and Jahanbaksh scored, but the credit goes to every single player in the team. Those players stood up to their biggest challenge and came out as winners.

Credit has to go to Aradeshir ‘Amir’ Ghalenoei, the head coach who had to arrange a makeshift team due to the suspension of Taremi, injury to Majid Hosseini and Sadegh Moharrami. In a masterstroke, Ghalenoei played Milad Mohammadi instead of the Captain and much more experienced Ehsan Hajsafi, He supplemented the defensive midfield role by playing Omid Ebrahimi to support Ezatollahi and finally, he used the stronger Mohebbi instead of Ghayedi on the flanks.

It was indeed a gamble that worked very well. The return of Kananizadegan stabilized the central defense. Ramin and Milad Mohammadi on the wings were a source of headaches for the Japanese.

Sardar Azmoun was majestic. Top-notch performance, powerful in attack, visionary, individual skills, and provider of the gem of pass to assist Mohebbi’s goal. Azmoun played one of his best matches for a long time. He should have been awarded that wonderful goal, except for VAR which declared him offside by a millimeter.

Beiranvand was never really tested because of the solid defense protecting him, and the goal he conceded was a touch of fortune for the Japanese. Mohebbi exceeded expectations. His constant runs, hustle, and physicality were marvelous. His finishing from the Azmoun pass was a touch of class.

Even Ezatollahi upgraded his performance in this match.

And what about the warrior Omid Ebrahimi? He was all over the pitch, tackling, shooting, and hustling as if he was 20 years old. Perhaps one of his best games in the long career with Team Melli.

It is difficult to pick up the MVP of this match, but Saman Ghoddos and Sardar Azmoun are the closest to the title. Ghoddos was inspirational. His Vision, tact, skills, and determination were the qualities that a player needed to challenge the top team in Asia. He was never intimidated by the quick and pacey Japanese. Hardly put a foot wrong.

And Finally to Alireza Jahanbaksh. The Captain and the man who was assigned the heavy responsibility to take the penalty kick in the last moments of the game. The psychological pressure was immense not just in front of the capacity crowd but with 88 million Iranians watching.

He took the penalty in a style appropriate for the Captain of the team.

Now, comes the more difficult task, not necessarily technical or tactical but emotional and psychological. The players need to be back on the ground treat the next opponent with respect and play the best football that they have proved they are capable of.

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

Matches

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.

Ghalenoei “Some of our players have inappropriate behaviour”

In the post-match press conference following Iran’s win against Syria in the round of 16, Team Melli head coach, Amir Ghalenoei, breathed a sigh of relief and admitted it was a difficult win despite his team being superior to the Syrians.

“thank God that we managed to qualify for the quarterfinals. I would like to thank all the players of the national team for their tremendous efforts in this game. Even with one player down, we managed to control the game and even had more chances.”

He added: ” We should have finished this match with a difference of four or five goals. I think it was one of our best games of the competition until we conceded the goal. Unfortunately, some players played in a way that put pressure on the national team. This look down and some inappropriate behavior of some players should be resolved in our team and we should address such negative attitude and this behavior before the next match “.

Ghalenoei: “We have no problems in our defense!”

Asian Cup at 19:30 on Wednesday, 11th of Bahman in the Abdullah Bin Khalifa Stadium in Doha. 

Amir Ghalenoei, attended a press conference before the game with Syria on Tuesday afternoon and brief the press on the status and conditions of his team for the then proceeded to answer the questions by reporters.

Syria is a team with a great coach

Team Melli’s head coach said “Considering the knowledge we have of the great head coach of the Syrian team and the players of this team, we know that we will have one of the most difficult games ahead of us. They only concede a single goal in the group stage, which shows that they have a good defensive structure. We are playing against a hardworking team. We must run and focus so that we can implement our tactical plans with the least mistakes.

We have learned the necessary lessons 

Emphasizing that his team is ready for the match against Syria, Ghalenoei continued: “Iran’s national team has great players, of course, in order to achieve success, we must have good quality and play with focus. The previous results and behaviors have taught us the necessary lessons. This issue has already shown itself in individual behaviors as well as team issues. Now we have to play with strength and concentration.”

We have changed our attitude 

About Syrian, he said “This team is very good in terms of defensive structure, but we have also made good progress. We have changed our attitude and moved from a defensive structure to attacking football with possession. This shows that we have been able to be effective in this time. In the club team, you can have 150 training sessions per year, but at the national team level, you cannot have more than 20 training sessions. We managed to change the attitude of the national team which was prevailing for several years.”

The goals we we conceded, had nothing to do with the defensive structure

About his team’s defensive problems: “The two goals we conceded in these games had nothing to do with our defensive structure or weakness. They were individual mistakes, which is also a part of football. We have to make people enjoy football. That’s why we have to play offensive in the match against Syria. The characteristic of Iranian football is that it must be present in the defensive third of the opponent and play offensively. We hope the players will implement the tactical orders on the field. have high concentration and minimize individual mistakes so that we can win with an acceptable performance.”

return to the events of the past ; I was wronged

In response to a journalist’s question about the events of his previous coaching in the 2007 Asian Cup, Ghalenoei said: “They brought a head coach in the worst possible situation, the federation did not have a president, football is suspended, two political groups were involved. A head coach comes, doesn’t lose, scores 11 points, and leaves the team without a loss. I wasn’t sad about being abandoned, I was sad about the cruelty that happened and the bad treatment I received.” 

They made a program and wrote 300 articles against me

Ghalenoei continued: “Nowhere in the world would they treat a coach who had taken over the team in such difficult situation treated me. There was a certain group that had a problem with me and they produced a TV program targeting me and wrote 300 articles against me. I was surprised myself. Certain political conditions prevailed in the country.

Do not break the sanctity of people

Ghaleneoi continued :” My request is that you treat people in such a way that we do not break the sanctity of people. I myself have left out many players, rightly or wrongly. But I have tried not to break anyone’s sanctity. I tried to be honest in my behavior. These players are really smart and intelligent and we have to be honest with them.”

We have no problem with the defense line 

Commenting about remarks in his defensive line up, lack of cohesion and defenders mistakes, he said ” Kananizadegan is a good player who will be absent in this match. However, we have good players that we can use. We also have good young players who can gradually join the team. We are not worried about the player who is unable to play because we can solve these problems by moving positions.

60088

Syria: A difficult team to beat

. Iran needs various solutions against park the bus Syrian defense

. Syria will frustrate the Iranian forwards.

. Team Melli lacks prowess in the middle of the park.

On paper and form, Iran is the favorite to go through the round of 16 match against Syria on Wednesday. Everything is backing Team Melli from the head to head records to form, players ratings and anything in between. Frankly, it is hard to find any aspect of the Syrian team that can match Iran’s.

Football, however, is a strange game where forms and stars sometime lose their way in a match. Team Melli started brightly against Palestine, dispatching four goals in the process. Against Hong Kong, the Team was an embarrassment and perhaps even lucky not to come out with draw. Third time against the UAE, the team was back to its standard and perhaps unlucky not to score more than two goals.

Evaluating the performance of the Syrian team, their last 3 games were hardly impressing. However, it must be mentioned that in Héctor Raúl Cúper , they have a seasoned coach with an immense experience. at club and national teams levels. The Argentine, who at one stage coached Inter Milan , has moved eastward coaching Georgia, Egypt, Uzbekistan . Congo DR before settling in Syria. He is , perhaps, the Syrian team greatest asset.

Syria, just made it to in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup, after a narrow 0-1 loss to Australia, a goalless draw versus Uzbekistan and a narrow 1-0 win against India. The stats clearly says that there is not much fire power in the Syrian team scoring one goal in three matches to qualify, but on the other hand, they seem to have a solid defense that has conceded one goal only, a record which is better that Iran which has conceded two goals.

Clearly, this team excels in defending. Cuper is well aware of his team strength and will be repeating the same against Iran. Packed and tight defenses , double teaming the Iranian wingers and closing down the central defense will be the game plan for Syria. It will be a classic Italian style defense.

The Syrian players are physically and technically strong and can match the Iranians. What they lack, however, is the skills, experience and the team work of Iran. Ghalenoei, must have a pragmatic approach to this match and be prepared to change game plan and players’ options to counteract the tight defenses of Syria.

While Rezaeian will be a key provider of crosses on the right flank for Taremi and Azmoun, the lack of pace and skills of Ezatollahi to cover him, could prove costly in case of counter attacks by Syria. The same can be said on the left side of the defense where Hajsafi is venturing much less than usual but also has no real backing in case he decides to venture forward for crosses.

In fact, it there was a good defensive midfielder in the team, the central defenders would have benefitted a lot and their work cut short playing more comfortably at the back. This is probably the major shortfall of Team Melli right now. Feeble defensive midfield players.

Hossein Kanani is suspended for the match against Syria, which might be a good thing for Iran as he has been error prone in the las three matches. Majid Hosseini, and Shoja’a Khalilzadeh , although not familiar with each other, can still perform the job expected from them.

Saman Ghoddos, at his best, is a key player in Team Melli although , he does tend to drift in and out at times. His defense splitting passing is crucial, as well as the dribbling of Ghayedi and the crosses of Jahanbakhsh. Ghalenoei must introduce a variety of plans to put pressure on the Syrian defense.

Saeed Ezatollahi whose style of play is slow , destructive, and passes somewhat backwards, needs to be counted if he is picked as a starter. He has been one of the weaknesses in the line up as the squad does not have adequate coverage in this department. Cheshmi is more versatile and better defensive player, while Ebrahimi is stronger in tackles and more experienced but Ghalenoei somehow sees something in Ezatollahi that keeps him in the team as a regular starter. It is about time that this midfield performs it defensive duty to help the team and ease the pressure on the defenders.

Team Melli training report

Doha – Al Rayan Training ground.

Iran’s national football team continued their preparation for the round 16 match against Syria with an evening session from 18:00 Doha time.

This practice session was held at Al-Rayyan Club. The squad reviewed the tactical plans of the coaching staff for the game against Syria on Wednesday.

Performing tactical tasks in two offensive and defensive phases in two different groups and reviewing tactical goals using small goals was the main part of the team’s training today.

In these two sections, Amir Ghalenoei, the head coach, repeatedly reminded the players of the important points by pausing the action as necessary.

Maintaining concentration during the pressure of the game, quick passes and single hits and combined work were the points emphasized in today’s training.

In the final part of the practice session, the players took turns in penalty kicks.

Before the start of today’s training, Ghalenoei spoke to the players for 15 minutes highlighting important points about the opponents and different game plans which would be used for the game..

Team Melli will continue its training tomorrow from 18:00. The media and press are allowed to attend the practice for the first 15 minutes of this training.

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.

Ghalenoei game plan vs Hong Kong

After a convincing comfortable win in the first match for Team Melli against Palestine, Amir Ghalenoei opted to give his players a day off on Monday. The players were happy to take the off day to roam around the city of Doha to observe the majestic infrastructure and the modern shopping areas.

Ghalenoei and his coaching staff remained in the hotel planning for the next match vs Hong Kong that will be played on Friday. The concern about injuries has died down as it seems all the players on the injury list have recovered and can play if Ghalenoei wishes to use them. The head coach, however, is contemplating a change in the lineup to give the main players some rest while giving fringe players the chance thus spreading the workload amongst a maximum number of players in this long competition that needs fresh players, not over-worked or exhausted ones.

Hong Kong lost against UAE in its first match 1-3 with two penalties conceded. Despite that loss, Hong Kong looked quite good and managed to control the game at different periods. The team has improved in the last few seasons and with the naturalized players, there is flair and industry, and confidence is high. It is not a team that should be taken lightly by Iran despite the 4-0 drubbing the last time these two met in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in Azadi.

There is no question of Ghalenoei putting a weakened team against Hong Kong as a win is essential. Players like Azmoun, Taremi, Ghoddos, and Jahanbakhsh are essential in the team lineup. Other players can be rested such as Saeid Ezatollahi who had a pretty bad match against Palestine and also suffered a trauma on his nose. A rest for that player will do both himself and the team a ton of good. Cheshmi or Ebrahimi would be the ideal options to replace Ezatollahi.

Mehdi Torabi, who was not even on the bench against Palestine, Ali Gholizadeh, and Mehdi Ghaeydi are good options to start as midfielders alongside Ghoddos.

There have been questions about the defense and conceding the goal has worried the local Iranian media. The Ezatollahi blunder has raised the question although it was an individual error from one player. The overall standard of defense was quite good against Palestine, however, a change of personalities would be beneficial. Some younger energy will do Team Melli a world of good.