Tag: Bahrain

Thrilling encounters in AFC Asian Cup Round 16

There were some major surprise results in the group stages of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023. Iraq defeated the favorites Japan, while Jordan was on the brink of victory against the mighty Koreans, but finally settled for a 2-2 draw.

Only Iran, Qatar, and Iraq managed to win all the group matches. Japan and Korea Rep were placed as runners-up in their respective groups. As expected Australia and Uzbekistan qualified from their groups while China was stunned and eliminated from Group A.

There were quite a few surprises too in this edition. Tajikistan and Palestine were both qualified for the first time in their history. Indonesia pipped Vietnam to the round 16 qualifiers in another major surprise.

Bahrain topped its group which had Korea Rep, Jordan, and Malaysia. Despite the defeat in the opening match against the Koreans, Bahrain recovered well by winning its remaining matches. Jordan placed third in the group and qualified as one of the best third-rank teams.

Team Melli, had a solitary hiccup against Hong Kong, nevertheless, it won all three matches without much effort. It will be meeting Syria in the Round of 16. Waiting for Team Melli after it defeats Syria is either Japan or Bahrain in what could be an early final.

There were a lot of lessons to be learned from the last time Iran and Japan met in the last edition of the AFC Asian Cup in Al Ain. In that semi-final, Japan destroyed Team Melli in style mainly due to the Iranian player’s pressing the self-destruct and lack of discipline.

It would be a good move for Ghalenoei to show his players the full match from 2019 and pinpoint where the Team Melli players possibly went wrong. Saying that, Bahrain could very well spring another surprise by beating Japan in this round. Bahrain has always been a difficult and stubborn opponent for the Persians,


Sunday, January 28

Australia vs Indonesia (Jassim bin Hamad Stadium, Doha 11.30am)
Tajikistan vs United Arab Emirates (Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Monday, January 29

Iraq vs Jordan (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan)
Qatar vs Palestine (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor)

Tuesday, January 30

Uzbekistan vs Thailand (Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah)
Saudi Arabia vs South Korea (Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan)

Wednesday, January 31

Bahrain vs Japan (Al Thumama Stadium, Doha)
Iran vs Syria (Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha)

Team Melli needs a foreign coach at this time says Cheraghpour

A football expert says that Iran’s national football team currently needs a foreign coach.

In an interview with ISNA, Jalal Chiragpour, the former Team Melli Head Coach and veteran on Iranian football affairs, commented on the chaos surrounding Team Melli and the status of the bench particularly Skocic by saying ” First, we must follow logical reasoning for our conversation so that the reader can understand the situation well. Let us examine the issue from a technical and scientific point of view. In my opinion, the major problem lies with the decisions of the FFIRI Technical Committee which are neither scientific nor technical. This group of people, which now says that the Head Coach of Team Melli is not qualified, where were they in the last two and something years when Skocic took Iran to the World Cup? what criteria have they used to suddenly determine that he (Skocic) is not qualified? Did anyone see what reasoning they used? Did anyone question their logic or motives? Are there transparent and explicit requirements for the Team Melli coach?

He added: “The question remains that on that day when we were third in the group of five teams, we had lost to Bahrain and Iraq and there was a 70% chance of Team Melli being eliminated from Round 2, did this technical committee have the courage to determine right and wrong at that time?  They were nowhere near any type of decision. In any case, Skocic came and took the heavy burden off the ground and managed to lead the team to qualify for the World Cup. Now that the team has qualified comfortably and easily I might add, and is in a position where everyone knows who are the teams of its group, the technical committee raised its head. Those members of the technical committee, do not have the technical authority nor the qualification to say what is right or wrong.”

He added: ” Now they have decided that Skocic is not qualified!! Doesn’t that raise questions about the motives and authenticity of those people? in that scenario and after three games of the World Cup, the results of which are predicted. Who is the technical committee accountable to? They would say that we tried but it didn’t work. For these reasons, I say that the technical committee is not competent.  They lack authenticity, in any case, this technical committee does not have the authority to decide whether the Head Coach of the National Team of Iran should stay or leave. It is not in the term of reference and never was”.

Criticizing the management of the Football Federation, Chiragpour said: “The Federation should be helping solve national team issues such as preparation friendly games, camps that help improve the quality of the team, but it has failed in this responsibility. Their priority is the elections and who wins a seat. The delay by the Football Federation in determining the assignment of the national team’s bench with about 4 months before the Qatar World Cup is an example of their oversight.”

He added “It may be said that domestic coaches have the ability to qualify our national team for the World Cup. Well, let’s do this for the next World Cup and leave the work from zero to 100 to an  Iranian coach. Beware though, you have all witnessed the performance of the Iranian coach on the national team. “

“When a player was selected for the world team XI by FIFA,  the Iranian head coach of the national team at the time said that he was not convinced by the standard of that player and did not pick him for the national team. After that, that same player played in Europe for another 6 years and became the player of the century for Iran.”

Cheraghpour concluded: “the qualities and requirements of coaches differ in different disciplines. Wrestling is different from football. We are the leaders in the world in wrestling, but in football, we are ranked in the 50 countries in the world at best. For this reason, domestic wrestling coaches are considered among the top in the world, but it is not a reason that domestic football coaches have the necessary quality to lead the football team at the top international level. If you want to bring in a local coach, let’s do it immediately after the World Cup, when there is plenty of time for the next tournament. We also need to give that coach support moral and otherwise.” Chiragpour added: “At that point, you can prepare the team for the Iranian coach and let him work. But right now it is too late for these things. The new coach of the national team has practically only 17 days on the field to work with the team, not 110 or 120 days. On those 17 days, it is supposed to be an hour and a half of training, of which half an hour is warming up. A total of 17 hours are available to the next coach. On the other hand, Iran has a total of 6 players in a position like central defense, and everyone, from Nekonam to Queiroz and even members of the technical committee, will only invite those 6 players to the national team.”

AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022™ official draw today

Kuala Lumpur
The official draw ceremony of the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022™ in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on Thursday (May 26) at 3 pm (GMT+8) will set the stage for the return of top-flight Continental futsal after a four-year hiatus caused by the pandemic.
After an intensive round of qualifying battles, the draw will reveal the opponents of Asia’s 16 teams who will compete for futsal’s grandest prize at the showpiece, staged in West Asia for the first time after 10 years, from September 27 to October 8, 2022.
The contenders will be divided into four groups of four teams, with host Kuwait placed as the top-seeded Member Association (MA) while the ranking of the AFC Futsal Championship Chinese Taipei 2018™ will determine the seeding of the remaining challengers.
Joining Kuwait in Pot 1 are the defending champions of the Islamic Republic of Iran, also the most successful side in the competition with 12 titles, Japan, runners-up in 2018, and Uzbekistan, who finished second on four occasions.
Iraq, Lebanon, Vietnam, and Bahrain will occupy Pot 2 followed by Thailand, who are the Southeast Asian Games gold medalist, Chinese Taipei, Tajikistan, and the Korea Republic in Pot 3.
Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Turkmenistan, and debutants Oman will have their names drawn from Pot 4.
As futsal makes a safe return to the Continent, the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022™ draw ceremony is poised to unveil thrilling encounters in the Group Stage where the top two sides in each group advance to the next stage.
Futsal continues to grow at a rapid pace in Asia and this was evident when a record five teams – IR Iran, Japan, Thailand, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam – qualified for the knockout stage of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021 for the first time.
Click here to watch the AFC Futsal Asian Cup Kuwait 2022™ draw live.

Skocic still absent, Marijo Tot deputizes him!

The designated Head Coach of Team Melli in the pre-match press conference said that “Iran, as one of the giants of Asian Football, is looking to qualify to the World Cup and we want to win all our.”

Marijo Tot, the coach of the Iranian national team, in the absence of Dragan Skocic, who is still suffering from Corona and has been absent from the current training camp, attended the press conference before the game with Syria. He said: “As you all know, we have an important game tomorrow. We are in a difficult period and we have to get the best results in 10 games. Everything is going well and we only have a few injuries but that will not make our job difficult.”  He continued “we have to win tomorrow’s game. The games get harder every time you have to play an opponent. Our team has quality and experience.”

“As we showed before, we worked hard in Bahrain, but we were able to get the best results. The teams here are fighting hard to be their best in order to qualify.” Marijo Tot was asked about the bench for the Syria game and who will lead Team Melli from the bench. “I believe and we will keep our hopes high until the last moment that Skocic will be available and be with the team tomorrow. He has had very difficult days in the hotel for the past 15 days, but if that does not happen, we will definitely get help from him during the game. With 22 years of coaching experience, I know what is required and our conversations should be short.”

The 49 years old Croatian coach has been an assistant to Dragan Skocic in Team Melli.  He has been assistant manager to Vahid Halilhodžić at Dinamo Zagreb during 2010-2011 season. When Halilhodžić was dismissed in early May 2011, Tot takes charge of Dinamo for the remaining matches. He also guided Dinamo to win the 2010–11 Croatian Cup, defeating NK Varaždin 8-2 on aggregate in the final.

Tot Coachd in Malaysia, China, and Saudi Arabia where he was coaching for the Saudi Premier League football giant Al-Ittihad as assistant to the head coach Slaven Bilić, the most famous Croatian football manager.

Yellow cards wiped out for the 3rd round of World Cup qualifiers

The AFC has decided to wipe out all the yellow cards of the previous rounds issued to the players during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers and cleared their warnings. However, any suspensions are still enforced and will apply for the next round starting September 2nd.

This move follows the instructions and guidelines issued by FIFA in regards to players’ disciplinary records, with all the players starting the third round with a fresh record. Team Melli is the biggest benefactor of this move by FIFA/AFC as it has 13 yellow cards in its record.

The carrying cards are Ehsan Hajsafy, Mehdi Torabi, Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan, Ahmad Noorollahi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sadegh Moharremi, and  Mehdi Taremi, who have one yellow card each, while Morteza Pouraliganji, Sardar Azmoun, and Masoud Shojaei carry two cards. The latter is irrelevant as he is not a member of the squad anymore, Pouraliganji is on the clear after he missed one match already but Azmoun seems certain to serve a one-match suspension for carrying two cards ( vs. Bahrain ‘Away’ and Iraq ‘Home’) were forgiven. Azmoun will miss the match against Syria in Tehran.

Iran will face South Korea, the UAE, Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq in Group A in the third and final qualifying round of the World Cup Qatar 2022. The top 2 teams will qualify directly to the World Cup


Yellow Cards


Date Venue Opponent Cards (Minutes) Result
10.09.2019 Away Hong Kong none 0 – 2
10.10.2019 Home Cambodia Morteza POURALIGANJI (78) 14 – 0
15.10.2019 Away Bahrain Ehsan HAJSAFY (63)
Sardar AZMOUN (90)
1 – 0
14.11.2019 Away Iraq Masoud SHOJAEI (48)
2 – 1
03.06.2021 Home Hong Kong Mehdi TORABI (90) 3 – 1
07.06.2021 Home Bahrain Hossein KANANI-ZADEGAN (45) 3 – 0
11.06.2021 Away Cambodia None 0 – 10
15.06.2021 Home Iraq Ahmad NOUROLLAHI (9)
Alireza JAHANBAKHSH (41)
Sadegh MOHARRAMI (53)
Sardar AZMOUN (77)
Mehdi TAREMI (81)
1 – 0

Match Preview: Iran vs. Iraq.

Muharraq: The Group C winners will be determined on Tuesday when Iran and Iraq clash at the Sheikh Ali bin Mohammed Al Khalifa Stadium, while Bahrain faces Hong Kong in their final match in the second round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

The race for top spot promises to see a thrilling end with Iraq – on 17 points – two ahead of Iran while Bahrain will need to defeat Hong Kong by a huge margin and hope for Iran to lose to secure second place as Group C goes down to the wire.

The top spot will secure a place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, while a strong finish may also see the group’s runners-up through.


All eyes will be on Iran as Team Melli will look to make it four wins out four since Group C resumed earlier this month with Cambodia, Bahrain, and Hong Kong easily seen off.

Iraq, however, will be a tougher challenge and with victory, the only option in their bid to finish top, head coach Dragan Skocic will demand the winning consistency Iran have developed in Muharraq as they chase a third consecutive appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals.

Iran have been clinical in front of the net, with 17 goals to their name while the defense has been resolute with only Chinese Taipei able to breach the backline in Muharraq.

Iraq, meanwhile, may only need a draw but it is highly unlikely that head coach Srecko Katanec will adopt a defensive gameplan against an Iran side who have been scoring at will.


Iraq resumed their campaign with a 4-1 defeat of Cambodia but found the going tougher against Hong Kong, with an own goal by Fung Hing Wa securing the West Asians the three points.

Katanec wasn’t unduly bothered by the lack of goals against Hong Kong and will remind his charges that they defeated Iran when the two teams met in November 2019.

Team Melli is on the march : Iran 10 – 0 Cambodia

Iran defeated Cambodia 10-0 in Group C of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Friday to ensure their qualification hopes are very much in their own hands.

The win took Iran to 15 points and with Iraq – who defeated Hong Kong later on Friday to stay two points ahead at the top – up next on the final day of the Asian Qualifiers, a win for Team Melli will mean finishing as group winners.

Cambodia, meanwhile, ended their campaign with just one point to their name from eight matches.

Iran head coach Dragan Skocic made six changes to the starting line-up that had defeated Bahrain 3-0 in their previous match, but there was no disruption to service as the Central Asians took a firm grip on the match.

Cambodia, however, showed early determination but suffered a setback in the 15th minute when Iran were awarded a penalty after defender Sor Rotana’s foul on Alireza Jahanbaksh (pictured below, right), with the Iran skipper converting the spot-kick.

Group C: Cambodia v IR Iran

Iran continued to press and were rewarded again with Shojae Khalizadeh rising highest to head home a corner kick in the 22nd minute before Mehdi Taremi (pictured below, left) got into the goalscoring action with a half-volley to make it 3-0 five minutes later.

Iran’s fourth goal came through Rotana deflecting Milad Mohammadi’s cross past custodian Keo Soksela in the 32nd minute, with the inside of the crossbar denying the Central Asians a fifth before the break as Saeid Ezatolahi’s penalty rebounded off the woodwork.

Cambodia v IR Iran (2)

Iran maintained a high tempo in the second half with Mohammadi etching his name on the scoresheet in the 57th minute, courtesy of Mehdi Ghayedi’s superb through pass, before Morteza Pouraliganji headed home a corner six minutes later.

Cambodia’s desperate defending led to another Iran penalty in the 77th minute, with Karim Ansarifard slotting home to make it 7-0.

Saeid Ezatolahi - Cambodia v IR Iran

There was no stopping Iran’s quest for goals, with Kaveh Rezaei becoming the seventh Team Melli player to find the back of the net after heading in Sadegh Moharammi’s cross in the 80th minute before Ghayedi displayed his dribbling talent in the box to beat Soksela from close range.

Rezaei bagged his second of the night in the 87th minute as Iran completed an emphatic win and set its sights on Iraq.

Skocic satisfied with his team but the focus is now on Cambodia game.

Dragan Skucic, the head coach of Iran, in the pre-match press conference before tomorrow’s (Friday) match against Cambodia said “I would like to express my satisfaction with the performance and the result of our match against Bahrain. While there was a lot of stress on the players in that game, we were able to get a satisfactory result.”

He added: “I ask my players to forget about the game against Bahrain. In football, you need to forget memories and past results. We do not want to underestimate Cambodia and we have a lot of respect for them. I watched their games and realized that their performance is much improved and they are better than their results imply, and I would like to ask my team to keep their focus on this game and show their quality. We are going for a win against Cambodia while we have a lot of respect for them. We came to Bahrain to get the maximum points and we have nothing to do with calculations and ifs and buts,” Skocic said.

Asked about the last result against Cambodia in Azadi stadium, and the impact of that game while facing them again on Friday ” All the players and the technical staff are focused this game against Cambodia, and I  have emphasized on them to forget about the game against Iraq and the ifs and buts for that game. We put everything we have to play against Cambodia and we are looking for maximum points.”

Dragan Skocic was accompanied by Saman Ghoddos in this press conference.

Team Melli is presently lying second after Iraq in Group C of the qualifying round of the FIFA World Cup in Qatar 2022.

Game review: Iran vs. Bahrain

Following the comprehensive 0 – 3 defeat against Iran in the return match of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers, Bahrain head coach Helio Sousa in his post-match statement said “the difference between the two sides was that Iran had the likes of Azmoun and Taremi.”

“The strength of Iran was their ability to launch attacks from the middle and we should have not given the space to do what they want,” said the Portuguese coach.

Sousa was accurate in his analysis but what he opted to mention was that he was outwitted by a less famous coach that hardly anyone has heard off beyond Iran and his homeland Croatia’s borders.

Dragan Skočić’s appointment as a head coach of Iran couldn’t have come at any worst time for himself and the team. The outbreak of the covid19 pandemic spoilt all his plans, in fact, he did not sit on the bench for his first match until 9 months after his 6th February 2020 appointment. His record now is a perfect 100%.

5 matches played 3 friendlies and 2 World Cup qualifiers so far. There is little doubt that he will make it 6 out of 6 comes Friday in the match against Cambodia.

There is no escaping the fact that Skočić is not a household name in Iran’s football as he coached lackluster or middle of the table teams before being appointed as Head Coach of Team Melli, however, in the few matches that he coached especially in the FIFA qualifiers, the 52 years old Croat has displayed a level of skill and vision that is unique. Give him the right players and this coach will bring glory to any team.

He rightly recognized that Jahanbakhsh despite his status is not delivering at the moment. He also rightly recognized that the team needs a skillful running player in the midfield who can supply quality balls to the forwards and hence Saman Ghoddos.

In the first half of the match against Bahrain, he recognized that Bahrain defensive plan is solid. It was a chapter from Carlos Queiroz’s book which his protégé Helios Sous has learned and implemented quite well in Bahrain National Team. Before the match against Iran, Bahrain conceded one goal only in six group matches. That proves how well their defensive plan is effective.

With that in mind, introducing a player such as Ghoddos, or Torabi was the best mean of beating such defenses. It worked quite well for Team Melli and Skočić was rightly delighted with his successful plan. The second goal scored by Azmoun had all the attributes and beauties of a great goal with amove started by Azmoun himself.

No plan will work unless you have the quality players. With Taremi and Azmoun, Skocic could not ask for more. At the end of the day, these two made the difference. Clearly, if they receive the services, they will deliver. In the case of Taremi, perhaps it is a question of focus and concentration as he seems to waste many scoring chances provided to him. Perhaps that is the ceiling of his abilities, but there might be some psychological work that Skocic and other coaches can work on increase his accuracy in front of the goal. He also needs to stop acting innocent and protesting whenever he misses the goal, or loses the ball and get on with the game.

Pouraliganji was an assuring figure when he came in. Although the pair Khalilzadeh and Kanai-Zadegan have performed well, they have not really been tested properly yet. The latter is a bit of a risk and lacks the experience of Pouraliganji. Shojaa Khalilzadeh is more solid but a player that could ignite at any time. Level heads and experience are really required in the center of defense.

The midfield of Team Melli must be credited for achieving the comprehensive victory against Bahrain. Their defensive and offensive roles were played quite efficiently. It was the midfield players who restricted Bahrain forwards and cut their supplies, although to be fair Bahrain midfield players were poor compared to their previous matches. Skocic bemoaned the loss of Amiri for the rest of the competition. Amiri had a very solid game against Bahrain. However, there are better players at the coach’s disposal, and Amiri’s absence against Iraq would not even be noticed.

Gholizadeh, Ezatollahi, Hajsafy, Torabi, Nourallahi, Jahanbakhsh are all available and do the job as well if not better than Amiri.

It was a good solid overall performance by Team Melli with some rough edges. The result was sweet and crucial. More of the same against Iraq will surely propel Iran to the next rounds of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.


Dragan Skocic proud of his team’s resolve and performance

Riffa: Islamic Republic of Iran head coach Dragan Skočić, praised his side’s resolve and performance in the 3-0 win over Bahrain in Group C of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Monday.

After a relatively even first half, Iran were dominant in the second period with Sardar Azmoun scoring twice in eight minutes, before Mehdi Taremi sealed the win with a strike of his own.

Skocic was ecstatic with the result, which pushed the Central Asians up to second place on 12 points in the standings, ahead of Bahrain on goal difference. Leaders Iraq have 14 points.

“First of all, I want to congratulate my team for the valuable win against Bahrain. We started the campaign with just six points but have earned two important wins against Hong Kong and Bahrain,” Skocic said.

“The win doesn’t surprise us because we entered the match with the aim of getting three points.”

Dragan Skocic - FFIRI

Skocic revealed that he had made changes to Iran’s style of play which produced the important win but expressed concern that Vahid Amiri is facing the possibility of being sidelined for their remaining two fixtures.

“We tried to avoid any defensive mistakes that could have cost us a lot and put an end to our chances. Congratulations to the players once again. The only negative point from this game was losing one of our best players, Vahid Amiri, and we will probably have a problem with his absence for the coming matches.”

IR Iran v Bahrain - AQ (7)

“The result was based on the tactics we chose, and I’m proud of this victory. I have said before that the Bahraini team is a respectable team, and we prepared thoroughly for the match.

“Our style of play was completely different from the match against Hong Kong. We were ready for this game, and right now I want to enjoy this historic victory. We will start thinking about Cambodia on Tuesday,” Skocic added.

Iran face a must-win match against Cambodia on Friday, before playing Iraq in their final fixture four days later.

Bahrain head coach Helio Sousa didn’t hide his disappointment, saying: “If there is someone who should be disappointed, it would be me.

“We have built great confidence in our team and everyone believed in us to achieve victory but we faced a difficult team.

“A draw would have been a better result for us rather than the defeat, of course. Now, we must reach 15 points but our chances are slim because Iraq and Iran have two matches remaining.”

Sousa said the difference between the two sides was that Iran had the likes of Azmoun and Taremi.

“The strength of Iran was their ability to launch attacks from the middle and we should have not given them space to do what they want,” said the Portuguese coach.

“Our opponents had good quality players, including the best player in the Russian Premier League while they also have several players who play in top teams around Europe.

“We made good substitutions but the second goal that we conceded affected us a lot. We were hoping to have a better result but we failed to do so although we played with a lot of bravery.”