Tag: Shinji Kagawa

Iran, the strongest contender for the title.

As the AFC Asian Cup is drawing closer, the pressure on Carlos Queiroz mounts to prove his worth with Team Melli by winning the 17th edition of the continents top prize.

The Portuguese head coach, whose resume included world class teams like Real Madrid, Manchester United, Portugal and South African national teams, has spent enough time in Iran and Asia to mount a serious challenge for the continent most coveted trophy which eluded Iran for 43 years.

For over 5 years, Team Melli has been ranked at the top of FIFA Ranking, rudely interrupted by Japan in one or two occasion. Under Queiroz’s leadership, Iran made it to two World Cups with ease it should be said, against tough opponents such as South Korea and Uzbekistan.

Iran stars such as Azmoun, Jahanbakhsh and Ansarifard have not performed anywhere near some of the other Asian footballers in Europe and none of them seem to be able to hold a place in their teams. South Korea’s Son Heung-min ,  is indispensable  member of the English Premiere league title contenders , Tottenham ,  Ki Sung-yueng is an important player for Newcastle, Australia’s brilliant goalkeeper  Mathew Ryan , has been Brighton’s saviour, Tom Rogic of Celtic  plays a major role for the Scottish champions, Japan’s Maya Yoshida (Southampton) ,  Shinji Kagawa (B. Dortmund),and Shinji Okazaki (Leicester City) all passed the grade for their  European Teams. It is interesting to note however, that Japan’s coach Hajime Moriyasu in true Japanese tradition opted for a team filled with young Europe-based talents, leaving stars like the latter two players off the squad. In brief, individually, the other Asian footballer have fared much better in Europe than Team Melli players.


Success at National team level in a competition such as the AFC Asian Cup cannot be judged on the individual star of a team. In the true meaning of the word, it is the team, in a collective sense that makes a difference at the end. The combination of Queiroz with his experience, knowledge and tactical acuteness with this group of talented and capable Iranian footballers, whom he has built and molded to his liking, is an excellent recipe for success. This is perhaps the best Iranian team since 1976 and many pundits know it and swear by it.

It is football, after all. One or two teams can spring a surprise. Australia, the defending champion minus a few of their stars from 2015 , Japan’s young yet tactically sound team, South Korea with a tradition ,  tactical discipline and winning mentality are as good as any to win the title.  There are also some outsiders, including Qatar, Iraq, Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia who might have a say in the tournament too.

Considering all factors, Iran and Queiroz still hold the upper hand and they are the team to beat. Barring some of the reckless finishing that have marred their recent performances, the trio up front in Team Melli can beat the best of their opponents. A solid defense is vital for any team with aspiration of winning championships and Team Melli has it all. In fact, Queiroz has a problem of riches in defense with all the defenders in the squad on similar forms and standards.

Ezatollahi’s absence in the defensive midfield role is a real, perhaps the only blow to Queiroz, but there is enough quality in the team to ensure his absence is not felt.

Success and chances of lifting the trophy will be greatly enhanced when personal, and tactical discipline (Queiroz is most defiantly should lead by example from the touchline) is at its highest. Not allowing the outcome of the match to be dependent on vacillating referees’ such as Ben Williams calls is a key factor.

On a positive note, Team Melli will have the greatest support outside of Iran in the UAE. The great Iranian community will be ever present to cheer the boys. This support cannot be underestimated.

Now all that remains is for the likes of Azmoun, Taremi, Ansarifarfd and Jahanbakhsh to convert their chances on the pitch and leave lady luck in the dressing room.

Team Melli tie Japan in an entertaining match.

Team Melli tied Japan 1-1 in the friendly international match played at Azadi stadium on Tuesday..

A small crowd of less than 10,000 fans were in the stadium at kick with a  slight increased during the first

Iran was the better team in the first half with Ashkan Dejagah bouncing from his quite disappointing performance against Oman to perform splendidly and turn into the pivotal player.  Although Team Melli’s  defense line was untouched, the  line that suffered badly against Oman, this time a solid performance associated with Japanese lethargy in the first half prevented the visitors  from creating any single goal scoring chance against Team Melli.

The many offensive attempts by Iran culminated in several scoring chances the best coming to Sardar Azmoun who lost his bearing at the crucial moment. Instead of guiding his ball into the empty net , the Rostov FC forward misfired the other way.TORABI-Mehdi

Ghafuri pulled a muscle midway through the half and his replacement Mehdi Torabi made a real impact. Not only did his gazelle like runs troubled the Japanese, his dribbling on the edge of the box in injury time of the first half resulted in a foul by Maya Yoshida and a penalty.

Ashkan Dejagah failed to convert the penalty as japan keeper Shusaku Nishikawa saved Dejagah’s shot, but Mehdi Torabi was on hand to pounce on the rebound and shoot into the net. That late goal ensured Iran leaves the field one goal up on the disappointing Japanese. Neither of Japan’s stars Honda or Shinji Kagawa performed at a level to talk about in this half.


In the second half, the Japanese stunned the hosts with an early goal by Yoshinori Mutō two minutes into the half. The substitutions by Caoch Vahid Halilhodžić ensured a better running and challenging Japanese team.  However, even with Japan increasing the tempo and going for the offensive plan, Team Melli was still the more likely to score and better performing of the two teams.

Ashkan Dejagah continued his fine performance, with Vahid Amiri and Mehdi Torabi giving the team pace and penetration control on the flanks, not to mention and exciting flavor.

In minute 70 , a series of good interplay and quick acceleration by Dejagah ended in him shooting from long-range but the shoot was parried by Japan’s Keeper. The lonely front man was Azmoun who could not react quickly enough to convert that ball into the net.

Pouraliganji came close with a header in the 83th minute while the Japanese had their own number of chances but none that seriously worried Alireza Haghighi in Iran’s goal.

Mehdi Torabi and Maya Yoshida were lucky not to get their marching orders in the match. Both carrying a yellow card, committed bookable fouls which the excellent Omani referee elected not to show.

It was an entertaining match as both teams, playing with no real pressure, performed their best. Iran’s performance was encouraging and miles better than the disappointing draw against Oman.

The 1-1 result was a fair reflection of the match.

Son Heung-Min

No Iranian in the 2014 AFC Player of the year list.

2014 AFC Player of the Year nominees announced

Kuala Lumpur: Al Hilal striker Nassir Al Shamrani, Al Ain ace Ismail Ahmed and 2006 AFC Player of the Year Qatar’s Khalfan Ibrahim have been nominated for the 2014 AFC Player of the Year award.

The AFC Annual Awards will be held in Manila, Philippines, on November 30 in conjunction with the AFC’s 60th anniversary celebrations.

None of the nominees has achieved anything of significance in Asian football this season or the one before.

The list is reflecting the poor standard of the Asian football players, as none of the finalist has any reputation in Asian let alone World Football. It also highlights the Arab influence in the AFC as the nominated players are all Arabs and none have exactly set the continent or even their domestic leagues alight. With the criteria for selection of players in AFC being a peculiar system of accumulating points in the AFC champions league match, the whole process loses authenticity and legitimacy.

When Asian players such as Shinji Kagawa , Makoto Hasebe,  Son Heung-Min and  Keisuke Honda who all play in the best leagues of the world against the best players yet a players  named Nassir Al Shamrani suddenly becomes a candidate for best Asian player, then all one can assume is that nominations process has a serious flaw and has very little to do with superior performance or excellence in Asian Football , but more like a ceremonial presentation for some players based on feeble foundation of  criterion.