Tag: Scores

Déjà vu. Omid Team eliminated!

Omid Team has been eliminated from the group stages of the AFC Asian U23 Championship and with it the eternal dream of qualification to the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

In the final do and die match against winless China, Omid Team struggled badly and wasted chance after chance to score goals until the 85th minute when a dubious penalty call by the referee allowed Noorafkan to score from the spot-kick. It was one goal too little and too late despite Uzbekistan losing their match against South Korea 2-1.

Uzbekistan qualified as the second of the group with 4 points, same as Iran but with a better goal difference of one goal.

In a match of wasted chances, especially the one that profligate Mehdi Ghaedi wasted while the goal and the net was at his mercy, wide open with the Chinese keeper stranded and nowhere near covering his goal. Ghaedi got the loose ball and with all the time and options available to him, he decides to head the ball into the empty net but he missed by a big margin!

How cruel and how heartbreaking!

This was the final nail in the coffin as the likes of Sayyadmanish, Shojaei, Mehdikhani kept shooting blanks and wasting chance after chance against a Chinese team that had nothing to play for but pride.

At the end of the day, this Omid Team did not deserve to qualify with these players and coaches.  The passive, back-foot approach, the helter-skelter style employed by Hamid Estili once again looked out of date against opponents who embody many of the principles associated with modern football. Estili, never an accomplished coach in the first place had a disadvantage with a bunch of individual players, who did not truly understand the concept teamwork and tactical (not that there was much of that in evidence) discipline, hence that combination turned into what the experts expected, failure of Team Omid.

It was Déjà vu.

That eerie feeling that the fans and media personnel have lived through the situation on numerous spells. The same lame excuses, the same justifications, the same “We were unlucky” and the same “We will do better next time, inshallah!”

44 years since the last Olympics, and by the next cycle, it will be 48 years wait. At this rate, we will be passing the half-century of years since Iran has made the Olympics Games football competition, a feat that nations who are supposedly below Iran in World Football Ranking have achieved many times.

Ultimately, in this current messy organizational structure and management deficiencies in Iran’s football at all levels, fans have to get used to failures after failures. You reap what you sow, nothing more nothing less. Deep-rooted changes have to be implemented and cleansing is done by competent professionals rather than devout loyalists. Success is achieved only by skillful, learned, experienced professional who base their work on systems and processes of modern football management.

Omid Team Draws Uzbekistan 1-1

Omid Team managed to escape with a draw 1-1 in the opening match of Group C of the AFC U23 Championship 2020. The Iranian players wore black armbands in the memory of General Ghassim Soleimani who was assassinated by the Americans in Iraq a few days back.

The first half ended 1-0 to Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan’s goal came from a soft penalty in the 40th minute. Earlier, Ali Shojaei missed a glorious chance to put Iran ahead. Only a few meters away and the goal gaping wide, Shojaei miskicked the ball horribly wrong out of bound!.

In the second half, Iran scored the equalizer in the 58th minute through an individual effort by Reza Dehghani who forced his way into the box getting a lucky rebound ball off the Uzbek defender to slot home.

After the equalizing goal for Omid Team, it was the turn of Mohammed Mohebi to squander a golden chance over the bar!

While winning one point is quite precious in a group that is so tight and the competition so fierce, Omid’s team performance was hardly assuring especially in the middle of the field and upfront.

Despite having Allhayar Sayyadimanish and Reza Shekari, the duo hardly passed to each other as both focus on the selfish individuals; attempts, both shooting from any angle while passing to a teammate was a better option. In fact, passing was a problem for the Omid Team, not only suffering from lack of them and but also the accuracy of those passes. Omid team pass accuracy was 67% while Uzbekistan’s was a highly respectable 87%.!!

Teamwork was found wanting and all the experiences of Mohebi, Shekari, and Sayyadmanish were not enough to have a positive impact upfront.

The team lacked strategy and played seemed to depend on individual skills to penetrate the opponent’s defense. Everyone seemed to want to dribble the ball from anywhere.

In the 2nd half, Hamid Estili replaced Ali Shojaei with Mehdi Ghaedi whose impact was immediate. However, the Esteghlal player is notorious for his over dribbling in addition to play-acting which limits his value for the team.

Uzbekistan was a much more organized team playing modern football. They had several chances to add to their goal but could not finish. Despite having 64% of the ball possession, the Uzbek team could not seriously threaten Omid’s goal.

In the second match of the Group, South Korea defeated China 1-0 to lead the group


Group C

Korea Republic
Korea Republic 1 1 0 0 1 0 1 3
Islamic Republic of Iran
Iran 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
Uzbekistan 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
China PR
China PR 1 0 0 1 0 1 -1 0

Omid Team arrives in Thailand

Iran’s Omid Team arrived in Thailand to start preparing for the upcoming AFC U23 Championship 2020. The squad flew to Bangkok then transferred to a domestic flight to fly south to Songkhla near the border with Malaysia.

Hamid Estili has made sure that the players have enough time to acclimatize before the competition starts on the 9th Jan against Uzbekistan.

Iran is unquestionably in the most difficult group facing the powerful Koreans, the defending Champion Uzbekistan, and the aspiring Chinese team. In simple term, there is no easy matches for Omid team in Thailand. A win in the first match will be the perfect result but by no means an assurance to qualify for the next round.

This championship is also the qualifying rounds for the Tokyo Olympic Games. The top 3 teams from this tournament will make it to Tokyo.

Branko Ivankovic : ” No intention to coach Team Melli”

Former  Team Melli and Persepolis coach Branko Ivankovic says he has no intention of coaching Iran national football team.

Ivankovic led Persepolis to the Iranian domestic treble last season but left after they failed to pay him his salary, a common practice in Iran in the last few years.

The 65-year-old coach, considered as one of the best foreign coaches of Team Melli, won the gold medal in 2002 Asian Games and led Team Melli to third place in 2004 AFC Asian Cup.

The Croat coached Iran at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, where the Team Melli failed to qualify for the next stage after losing to Mexico and Portugal. while drawing with Angola.

“At the moment, I have a lot of offers from Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Japan and China but have not accepted them so far. In Al Ahli, I was fired after three matches, something I never experienced such a thing before. I believe I worked well for the team as it needed some changes in dressing room but this is football and I accept it,” Ivankovic said.

Asked why he left Persepolis at the end of the last season, Ivankovic said, “I had four fascinating years in Iran and I so much miss the country. However, I was forced to leave Persepolis because they didn’t pay our salaries for about one year. At that time, Al Ahli gave me a good offer and I accepted it,” he added.

Persepolis have lost three times in the last 10 matches but Ivankovic says they are favourites to win the title for the fourth time in a row.

“I think Gabriel Calderon needs time in Persepolis because he is a great coach. Persepolis fans love their team and support their players and coaches. In my opinion, Persepolis and Sepahan are vying for the title in the current season,” Ivankovic stated.

Ivankovic believes that Team Melli had a chance to qualify for the next round at the FIFA 2018 World Cup.

“I think (Carlos) Queiroz preferred to defend in Russia. Iran could have played attacking football against Portugal and Span. After beating Morocco, Team Melli should have taken risks,” said Ivankovic .

“Is there any chance to return to Team Melli if he receives an offer?”

“I would prefer to work at club level. I am not going work as a national team head coach,” Ivankovic concluded.

Tough draw for Iran in AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020

Bangkok: Iran’s Omid Team has been drawn in what must be the toughest group of the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020.
Joining Iran are the defending champions Uzbekistan, Korea Republic and China in Group C. The Thailand 2020 Finals draw was held in Bangkok on Thursday. Iran had no representation in the draw ceremony.
Uzbekistan will open their defence of the AFC U23 Championship title in Group C with a match against Iran’s Omid Team. It promises to be an exciting group as all three of Uzbekistan’s challengers will be aiming to win the title for the first time.

The fourth edition of the Championship will be played across three cities – Bangkok, Buriram and Songkhla – with the tournament kicking off on January 8, and the final to be played on January 26. Besides Continental glory, 15 of the 16 teams will also be competing for places in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where the top three sides will join hosts Japan as Asia’s representatives next July.

Hosts Thailand was drawn in Group A and they will have 2013 champions Iraq, Australia and debutants Bahrain to contend with.
Qatar, third in 2018, 2016 champions Japan, Saudi Arabia – runners-up in 2013, and Syria are in an exciting looking Group B.

Vietnam, runners-up in 2018, have DPR Korea, Jordan – third in 2013 – and United Arab Emirates for the company in Group D.
Should Japan make the last four stage, the other three semi-finalists will be assured of their places in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Under newbie coach Farhad Majidi, Iran’s U23 had a disappointing showing in the preparation matches two of which were against the same Uzbekistan team which they will meet on 9th January 2020. With the powerful South Koreans, who are a title contenders in their own right, waiting next for Iran, it is going a steep mountain to climb for Iran. Realistically, Iran chances look dim for qualification but would be more than happy to be in the top two teams. China, the other team of the group have been performing well qualifying to the finals with ease after beating Laos 5-0 and Philipines 8-0 while drawing with host Malaysia 2-2. The Chinese have two friendly matches arranged in South America in Late November with Colombia in Bucaramanga and then against Peru in Lima.

The star-studded Korean team who are the Gold Medal holders of the Asian Games 2018 may include Tottenham Hotspurs star Son Heung-min who is 27 now. However upfront they have Hamburger SV forward Hwang Hee-chan and Italian Club Verona Lee Seung-woo in the squad. It is not clear if these players will be released for this championship.



Group C match fixtures

9 January 2020 Tinsulanon Stadium, Songkhla   Uzbekistan Iran
9 January 2020 Tinsulanon Stadium, Songkhla South Korea China PR
12 January 2020 Tinsulanon Stadium, Songkhla Iran South Korea
12 January 2020 Tinsulanon Stadium, Songkhla China PR Uzbekistan
15 January 2020 Thammasat Stadium, Pathum Thani Uzbekistan South Korea
15 January 2020 Tinsulanon Stadium, Songkhla China PR Iran

Team Melli starts camp among concerns about Hong Kong riots.

Team Melli started its preparation for the match versus Hong Kong in the qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup 2022 Qatar.  The team held its first training session at 6 pm on Sunday with 13 players.

Marc Wilmots spoke with his players for about 5 minutes before commencing field training. The Team Melli head coach also held a few minutes of tactical discussion with his technical staff.

The 13 players who attended the camp are all domestic league players, the Legionnaires are due to join as of tomorrow.

Those presents were : Masoud Shojaei, Ehsan HajSafi, Vahid Amiri, Siavash Yazdani, Hossein Hosseini, Vouria Ghafouri, Ali Karimi, Alireza Biranvand, Mehdi Torabi, Ahmad Nourollahi, Rashid Mazaheri, Mohammad Hosein Kanani Zadegan and Mohammad Naderi

The squad started the warm training under the guidance of assistant coach Vahid Hashemian while Wilmots and his assistants observed from the sidelines. There was no goalkeepers coach present at this session.

 Meanwhile, there is a concern in the Iranian federation as to the suitability and safety of the players in Hong Kong which is currently undergoing political disturbances and also disruptions of operations in the International airport. The latest development Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China is that demonstrators have blocked the roads into and out of the airport built on reclaimed land on the island of Chek Lap Kok. It has only one bridge to the mainland.

FIFA WC 2022 Asian Qualifiers Draw

The Round Two draw of the Asian Qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 concluded in the Malaysian capital on Wednesday.

The draw, conducted by FIFA Director of Competitions Christian Unger and Australian legend Tim Cahill, saw Asia’s top-ranked team Iran pooled in Group C alongside Iraq, Bahrain, Hong Kong and Cambodia.

Iran will be aiming for a third consecutive appearance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, having narrowly missed on qualifying for the knockout stage in Russia 2018.

Japan, Asia’s best performers in the 2018 FIFA World Cup where they were defeated by Belgium in the Round of 16, were drawn in Group F with Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Myanmar and Mongolia.

The Korea Republic, who have appeared in every edition of the FIFA World Cup Finals since 1986, will have Lebanon, DPR Korea, Turkmenistan and Sri Lanka in Group H of the Asian Qualifiers.

Saudi Arabia, who defeated Egypt 2-1 to end their 2018 FIFA World Cup campaign on a high, will face Uzbekistan, Palestine, Yemen and Singapore in Group D.

Australia, who became the record fifth Asian team at a World Cup Finals after going through the Inter-Continental Playoff to earn a berth in Russia 2018, will go up against Jordan, Chinese Taipei, Kuwait and Nepal in Group B.

Qatar, who will host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, were drawn in Group E alongside Bangladesh, Oman, India and Afghanistan in their bid to defend the AFC Asian Cup they won in spectacular fashion in the UAE last February.

China PR, the host for the AFC Asian Cup 2023, will have to navigate past Syria, Philippines, Maldives and Guam in Group A their bid for a second appearance in the FIFA World Cup Finals.

Group G had a distinctly Southeast Asian flavour as ASEAN rivals Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia were all drawn together, with the United Arab Emirates completing the cast.

The eight group winners and four best runners-up will advance to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals and the final round of qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

The next best 24 teams from the second round of the joint qualifiers will compete in a separate competition for the remaining 12 slots in the 24-team AFC Asian Cup China 2023.

Interim coach is considered for Team Melli

Team Melli will most probably schedule 2 friendly games in April 2019. The opponents or location of the national team training camp has not been determined yet but strong preference is given to the China’s International 4 side round ribbon invitational tournament.

The football federation is hard pressed for time in choosing a new head coach, so it’s more than likely that an interim coach will sit on the bench until negotiations and appointment of a permanent new coach is finalized and concluded.

Javad Nekounam is one of the candidates as Iran’s interim coach, because he is available and due to his familiarity with the Team Melli players. Nekounam is however a risky choice if the permanent coach negotiation is extended and prolonged. He has showed a lack of discipline in his short career in coaching. When appointed as assistant to Carlos Queiroz, in his first match against Qatar, he nearly started a riot by his childish and provocative celebration in front of the Qatar bench when Iran scored late in the game. A conduct that earned him a suspension by FIFA and consequent to that, his time with Queiroz did not last long.

There are two other names that are being talked about as well as Nekounam. Ali Daei and Branko Ivankovic. Both of these coaches have club jobs to attend to and both are bound by contracts to their clubs. Unlike Javad Nekounam who is out of work and is believed to be the cheapest option, Daei and Ivankovic are a different challenge all together for the federation

Saipa and Persepolis coaches, will not be cheap in terms of contract. Both have aspirations for full time jobs rather than being a fill gap for someone else. In their own rights, they have the credentials and the competency while both have carried out the job of Team Melli head coach previously unlike Nekounam who has a short coaching career which is barely satisfactory.

And there is always the release by the clubs if they agree and what compensations will they be awarded.

Ali Daei, a patriot that he always is, might agree reluctantly to lead Team Melli on temporary 1 or 2 match basis until the FFIRI final decision on a permanent appointment. Some insiders, however, doubt that Daei will agree while Kaffashian-Taj axis is at the helm of FFIRI. Daei is still very bitter about the way he was treated after the loss to Saudi Arabia in 2009 and blames Kaffashian, the President of FFIRI at the time and his buddy Mehdi Taj for his unfair dismissal. Since both are retirees who draw benefits from government pension, as the law stands, they are not allowed to take a job and a pension at the same time. Kaffashian is said to have left FFIRI but Taj is still procrastinating. The chances of Daei agreeing on the fill gap post are much higher when those two bosses leave their posts in FFIRI.

Ivankovic is a more difficult case. He is not obliged by any means to help the federation. His resume speaks for itself and if the FFIRI is looking for a competent replacement for Queiroz, they are obliged to consider the Croat who has coached Team Melli on two separate occasions taking Iran to the 2006 World cup. A temporary assignment will not interest Ivankovic who is busy with Persepolis and intends to perform one step better in the AFC Champions League this time.

After Queiroz’s departure, most critics have agreed that the next coach should be as good or better than the Portuguese coach to take Iran forward to the next biggest challenge and the is the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Appointment of Daei or Ivankovic as Team Melli coach has its merits and advantages. However, the legacy that Queiroz has left needs strong character to improve upon his work. Daei is a typical Iranian coach who usually blames failures on other factors, at least publically. Iran needs a realistic modern thinking coach who can adapt to circumstances, which sometimes are poor.  A coach who is tactically agile and always has options up his sleeve. Blaming the earth and sky will not achieve much for Iran’s football. Facilities, administration and management have always been poor to sub-standard. Coaches and players need to live with it. The legend Daei needs an attitude adjustment to make it at international level. He has yet to show that change in that respect.

Ivankovic has his own shortfalls. He can be too nice of a man against footballers who can be very difficult to handle. Queiroz had no times for those players and simply got rid of them in Team Melli despite the public outcry and federation intervention. It is doubtful if Branko can repeat the same

Queiroz Iran vs Japan during their AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 Semi-finals match

Team Melli vs China: players rating and performance review.

It was yet , another majestic display by Team Melli under the guidance of Carlos Queiroz. against China. Team Melli has not only enhanced its reputation as a team that can play modern and beautiful football, it also laid a solid claim and are the Chief contender for the title of AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Yet, neither Queiroz nor any of his players are talking beyond the next match. It is a wise and measured move but it does not mask the fact that from what we have seen in the last two weeks, Iran is the best team that has dominated its opposition and won matches deservedly on merit and perhaps with a class above the rest.

China was well beaten by Team Melli and much credits should go for one player, Sardar Azmoun. The Ruben Kazan forward was on a mission and he succeeded by mixture of strength, skill and determination. The Chinese defense, in truth, had a big role in the defeat of their team with some poor defending and suspect decision making.

China, however, was not a minnow team and did not lack the skills required at such level of football. They are guided by one of the world best and famous coaches in Marcello Lippi. A world Cup winner and a coach who has a trail of trophies behind him. Queiroz, on the other hand, out foxed the master in every department and his team came out a clear winner.

Queiroz has masterfully rotated the team for this tournament. He is the envy of the rest of the teams in UAE because he is spoiled for choices in every department. The absence of Vahid Amiri was not even felt. Hopefully , the same will be true against Japan when Mehdi Taremi will be missing due to his suspension.

Team Melli dominated the center and at times defended deep. their teamwork was a delight to watch. On my occasions, the series of short and fast passes interchanged between the players intimidated the Chinese who were chasing shadows. Despite the fact that most of the goals came either from long balls or route one followed by a Chinese defense blunder, that doe not hide the fact that Iran was the better team in all departments.

To be able to take advantage of the opposition mistakes , you need the quality player to do that. Team Melli had the right quality to punish mistakes by opposition defenders.

If there were some negative points, they were the same ones that were mentioned in other matches too and that is the wastefulness of the forwards, particularly Mehdi Taremi. It is very difficult to criticize a player who scored one goal and provided an assist for another, but Taremi was really appalling when he missed an open goal from a few meters after the ball was given to him on a plate by a perfect header from Kanani-Zadegan. It was a shocking miss!

Overall, it was an emphatic win in the quarter final of the AFC Asian Cup. Now……Bring on Japan.


  • Alireza Beiranvand (7.5): Hardly tested but when required he did his job perfectly.
  • Milad Mohammadi (7.5):  Routine day, defensive work was excellent, however, limited venturing forward to neutralize possible opposition fast breaks.
  • Morteza Pouraliganji (8): Another solid performance. His strong tackling and marking left very little space for the Chinese forwards.
  • Ramin Rezaeian (6.5): Improving with every match despite the fact that Queiroz wise squad rotation is not giving Rezaeian regular starting place.
  • Hossein Kanani-Zadegan (7.5): Only his second start of the tournament, however, he was as good as any of the regular players. When called upon for offensive work on corners, he nearly assisted in a goal but for Taremi’s profligate finishing from close range.
  • Omid Ebrahimi (7.5): Another solid exhibition of sheer power and tenacity. His defensive duties were executed perfectly. Strong and reliable as a holding midfileder. Tireless runner with great stamina.
  • Ashkan Dejagah (8): Continued where he left off. His vision, ability to find players on flanks and timely dribbling made a big impact on the game. Although he did not assist in the goals, his domination of the center of the park was excellent.  
  • Alireza Jahanbaksh (7.5): Continues his recovery and put up a good shift against China. Substituted in the second half.
  • Ehsan Hajsafy (7): Had a quiet game in the midfield zone. Nearly scored from a long range shot from outside the box, but the Chinese keeper saved it with full stretch.
  • Mahdi Taremi (7.5): Scored a goal and provided an assist for the third, however, he is still clumsy and wasteful. A player in his class should not miss an open goal, and that reckless challenge on a Chinese player cost him a yellow card and a suspension. Many rough edges to his game.
  • Sardar Azmoun (10): The best of the lot. A really great performance by Sardar capped with an assist and a goal. He was on turbo mode today running at the Chinese defense and creating havoc. He could have score more goals too.



  1. Saman Ghoddos (7): Proving his quality every time he comes on. He does need to have more playing time to reach the peak of his performance and improve his teamwork.
  2. Roozbeh Cheshmi (7): Had a decent game and stuck to the script.
  3. Karim Ansarifard (8): In his short spell on the field, he scored a beautiful goal which proves that he can be a clinical finisher. He needs to deliver more frequently to dislodge Taremi.


China 0 Iran 3: Azmoun punishes the Chinese defense.

Team Melli produced an impeccable performance in Abu Dhabi today to defeat China in the quarter finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. It was a real statement of intent by Queiroz’s men as Iran progressed into the last four with this commanding 3-0 quarter-final win over China PR.

Sardar Azmoun, who was the man of the match, scored one and set up another in the first half. While substitute striker, Karim Ansarifard sealed the win with late strike in the second half to set up a clash of giants against Japan in the semi-final next Monday.

Marcello Lippi has been tipped to bring his time as China coach to an end after this tournament and his side crashed out with a whimper, all three goals being scored following defensive lapses.

Azmoun celebrates

China failed to heed the warning after surviving an early scare when Azmoun’s header was cleared in front of goal by Zheng Zhi, the striker capitalizing after Feng Xiaoting let a long ball bounce to tee up Taremi for a simple finish –  his third goal in as many matches at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.

Taremi was denied a strong penalty appeal for a trip by Zhang Chengdong and missed a sitter from three yards, but Iran extended their lead in the 31st minute.

Azmoun profited from yet more sloppy defending by racing in behind and rounding Yan Junling, the goal allowed to stand following a brief VAR check for a potential foul on Liu Yiming.

Lippi has not been afraid to tinker with his formation during matches but his reversion to a midfield diamond did not have the desired effect.

Iran sealed the three-goal win late on through Ansarifard, who made the most of a gift from Shi Ke to slot home from Taremi’s through ball five minutes after replacing Azmoun.

While the result spells the end of the road for the Chinese, Iran remains in with a chance of claiming their first Asian Cup crown since 1976. Based on the dominant manner in which the Iranians claimed the victory against China, they might even be heading into that tie at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium as favorites.

Immaculate display of attacking prowess

It did not take them long to assert their authority on Thursday and they threatened as early as the fourth minute, when Alireza Jahanbakhsh played a teasing first-time ball across the face of goal that was just too far for Azmoun to reach.

Two minutes later, China had an opening of their own with Hao Junmin breaking through down the right and playing in a cross that would have spelt a certain goal for Wu Lei, only for Ramin Rezaeian to halt the threat with an amazing recovery challenge.

Azmoun threatened again in the 10th minute when he was left unmarked at the back post at a corner and would have opened the scoring with a free header if not for Zheng Zhi being alert to the danger and clearing just before the line, but there was to be no denying Iran eight minutes after.

There looked to be no real danger when the Iranian defence played a long ball over the top but Feng Xiaoting’s hesitation saw him recklessly lose possession to Azmoun, who did well to unselfishly square a pass to hand Taremi with a simple finish.

The Al Gharafa star should have doubled his and his side’s tally in the 26th minute from a similar position when he was left with a sitter after being picked out by Hossein Kanaanizadegan’s flick-on from Ashkan Dejagah’s freekick, only to fire wide with the entire goal gaping.

By now, China’s 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi had seen enough and was motivated to make two substitutions even before the half-hour mark, but it still seemed only a matter of time before the Iranians’ supremacy reaped a second goal.

That duly arrived a minute after the half-hour mark and – this time – it was Liu Yiming who was the culprit despite being the favourite to make an interception, allowing Azmoun to nip in and win possession and casually take the ball past Yan before slotting into the unguarded net.

With a two-goal advantage now in their grasp, Team Melli were never in danger relinquishing control of the contest in the second half, and even had further chances to add to their tally which would have certainly but the result beyond doubt, although they were never really threatened by a lacklusture Chinese outfit.

And, in the first minute of injury-time, they finally added the gloss on an emphatic victory after profiting from another China error; Shi Ke’s poor touch handing possession straight to Taremi, who immediately threaded a ball through for substitute Ansarifard to latch onto and finish into the bottom corner.


IRAN: Alireza Beiranvand, Ramin Rezaeian, Morteza Pouraliganji, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Milad Mohammadi, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ashkan Dejagah (Rouzbeh Cheshmi 76’), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Saman Ghoddos 68’), Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun (Karim Ansarifard 86’).


CHINA PR: Yan Junling, Liu Yiming, Feng Xiaoting (Xiao Zhi 28’), Shi Ke, Zhang Chengdong, Hao Junmin, Zheng Zhi, Wu Xi (Zhao Xuri 25’), Liu Yang, Wu Lei (Yu Dabao 75’), Gao Lin.