Tag: Japan

Iran is one spot higher in FIFA Ranking.

Team Melli climbed one spot higher to number 20 in the world in the first FIFA Ranking published in 2024. Iran is also closing the gap on Japan which slipped one spot down to 18th, however, despite the loss in the quarter-finals to Iran, Japan is still the top-ranked Asian Team followed by Iran.

Korea Republic climbed one place up while Australia climbed to 23rd.

There is plenty of movement further down the standings following the matches contested in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and the AFC Asian Cup. Amongst the African sides, Ivory Coast jumped 10 spots to be placed 39th, reaping the rewards of their continental triumph on home soil, secured following an eventful AFCON campaign.

The FIFA rankings serve as a testament to the current global football landscape, reflecting the performances and achievements of national teams worldwide. As the football calendar progresses, these rankings will likely witness shifts and changes based on upcoming tournaments and events. Football enthusiasts eagerly await the unfolding of the year’s sporting events that will inevitably impact these influential standings.

AFCON runners-up Nigeria sit at 28th after jumping 14 places making significant strides but are no match for Angola (93rd, up 24), a side they ousted in the last eight, who are the biggest climbers in the latest installment of the global ranking. Two-time Asian Cup winners Qatar (37th, up 21) chalk up the biggest tally (92.04 points) after capitalizing on home comforts to successfully defend their continental crown.

Elsewhere, Jordan (70th, up 17), who was edged out in the Asian Cup final, make good ground, as do Thailand (101st, up 12), whose journey came to an end at the last-16 stage.

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.

Team Melli to the semi-finals of AFC Asian Cup 2023

In one of the grandest performances of an Iranian team for many years, Team Melli defeated the mighty Japanese 2-1 in regulation time at the Education City Stadium on Saturday.

The quarter-final match was an early final between the Number one and two teams in Asia.

A late Alireza Jahanbakhsh penalty was the difference as Team Melli Iran came from behind to defeat Japan 2-1 and booked their place in the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ semi-finals on Saturday.

The two teams had met in the semi-finals of the previous edition, with Japan emerging 3-0 winners and they looked on course to repeat the win when they took the lead before the half-hour mark, but two second-half goals from Mohammad Mohebi and Jahanbakhsh turned things around for the Iranians at Education City Stadium.

image content

Captaining Team Melli on the day in the absence of Ehsan Hajsafi, Jahanbakhsh nearly opened the Iranians’ account in the 13th minute when he picked up Saeid Ezatolahi’s pass down the left flank and curled a shot that nearly caught goalkeeper Zion Suzuki off-guard, but fizzed just over the crossbar.

The first test for Suzuki came after 18 minutes when Hidemasa Morita lost possession on the edge of the Japanese penalty box, allowing Ezatolahli to control the ball and hit with his left, but his shot was too central and the Japanese goalkeeper had no problems in dealing with it.

image content

Morita more than made up for his mistake 10 minutes later. The central midfielder embarked on a solo run to beat three Iranian defenders and arrive into the box before drilling an effort that made its way into the back of the net despite goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand’s best efforts to make the save.

image content

IR Iran’s biggest chance to equalise before the break was a Saman Ghoddos half-volley after he controlled the ball with his chest, but the Brentford midfielder narrowly missed the target.

image content

Nine minutes after the restart, Team Melli were able to restore parity after a long pass from Suzuki was interrupted and the ball fell to Sardar Azmoun who supplied a through pass to Mohebi. The forward was left with just the goalkeeper to beat and coolly slotted into the bottom corner for the equaliser.

image content

IR Iran thought they had completed their comeback in the 64th minute when Azmoun latched onto a long ball, dribbling expertly past two defenders and powering past Suzuki into the near post, but the AS Roma forward had strayed marginally offside and the goal was overruled.

The Japanese goalkeeper was called into action again to stop a spectacular Ezatolahi volley from the edge of the box and confidently produced the required save with just six minutes left to the end of 90.

image content

Deep into four minutes of added time, IR Iran got a golden chance to win the game when Ko Itakura brought Hussein Kanaani down inside the box. Jahanbakhsh stepped up and emphatically dispatched it into the top corner to earn coach Amir Ghalenoei’s side the all-important victory.

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.”

Players that need to stand up and be counted.

There is no need to overcomplicate the issues for tomorrow’s match between Team Melli and their strongest opponent yet, Japan.

Simply, Iran has to win by playing their best match of the tournament. To do that, a few players need to elevate their game and need to stand up and be counted.

Against Syria, It should have been far more comfortable than what it was after Team Melli dominated the first half which finished with a 1-0 lead. A rash tackle by Beiranvand led to a penalty and the Syrian equalizer changed everything.

At some point, it looked like Team Melli was content with the draw.

Against Syria and the group matches, many players failed to impress. These players need to double their efforts for Japan’s match to make it to the semi-finals.

SARDAR AZMOUN

The hope of Team Melli fans, the highest Team Melli scorer, the icon who plays alongside the likes of Romelu Lukaku and Dybala in the Italian Serie A. Azmoun has been far from convincing, even his body language is suspect. He needs a major upgrade of his game and a unique performance against Japan to put everyone’s mind at ease. The team particularly needs his aerial power against Japan.

ALIREZA JAHANBAKHSH

Player whose moves, runs and crosses are essential for the forwards. He has the abilities and the skill but he lacks application and purpose. He is capable enough to be a threat to the Japanese with some self-belief and confidence. Ghalenoei should also encourage him to shoot when the situation is right.

SAMAN GHODDOS

Despite his vision, skills, and experience, he still fell short in previous games. He also needs more fighting spirit the type he displays for his club Brentford. Whatever the problem is, he never seems to complete a 90-minute game. For everyone’s sake, we hope he has the lungs and the stamina to do that against Japan.

RAMIN REZAEIAN

The longish injury just before the start of the Asian Cup could be the reason for his slow return back to form. Team Melli badly needs Rezaeian’s runs on the right flank. He is the perfect player for this match to send crosses for Azmoun. An on-form Rezaeian could win Iran the match against a vulnerable Japanese keeper and defense.

SAEID EZATOLLAHI

Not convincing in his last few matches, however, this should be the match to redeem himself against a tough skillful opposition. He needs to speed up physically and mentally. He has to support both the forwards and the defense. Ezatollahi must form the first line of defense against the Japanese attacks. It is a mighty task, but this match will determine if he is good enough for Team Melli.

ALIREZA BEIRANVAND.

Some criticism against him for conceding three goals, most of which he could have prevented, but he was also the savior. Tomorrow, his errors should be minimal. His towering presence will be essential. His position awareness in the box is vital. A good performance by Beiranvand will lead to a Team Melli victory.

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.
Rotating cast

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

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.

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,

AFC ASIAN CUP QATAR 2023

Last-16
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)