Tag: Uzbekistan

Ghalenoei wants a sharper Iran


Ashgabat: Amir Ghalenoei is demanding more potency from his Islamic Republic of Iran team despite having secured a spot at the AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™ and reaching Round 3 of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers following a 1-0 win over Turkmenistan on Tuesday.
The head coach, who steered Iran to the semi-finals of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™, was unhappy at the profligacy that could have been costly for Team Melli.

“Let me congratulate the Turkmenistan team for the good game they played,” said Ghalenoei. “The head coach has a very good team.
“We could have won by two or three goals, and of course, in the last minutes, there was a possibility that the game would be tied.”

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Mehdi Ghayedi’s first half stoppage time goal decided the match, as Iran found Turkmenistan harder to crack after having scored five past them last Thursday.  
The win put IR Iran on 10 points – the same as Uzbekistan – with both teams assured of a top two finish. 

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Uzbekistan made sure of their spot with a 3-0 win over Hong Kong, China whose head coach Jorn Andersen put the defeat down to the difference in individual quality though the Norwegian still found some silver linings from the performance of his players.
“We did very well in the first 15 minutes but then Uzbekistan increased the pressure and created many chances, proving that they are at a high level,” said Andersen. “Although we lost 3-0, I wouldn’t call it a bad result. The level of several strong players in the ranks of our opponent was the reason for the outcome of the match.
“True, I was not completely satisfied with the result. We conceded very simple goals. But I can say that the guys tried their best. I thank them for that.”

Who will lift the AFC Asian Cup 2023?

Predicting the team that will lift the AFC Asian Cup is not something that has any value at this stage as football, time and again, has proven to be a strange game, full of surprises, and winning a title in the most prestigious tournament can have twists and turns that not even the best analyst can predict.

However, what can be said makes sense is the ranking and performance of the teams beforehand and the expected results based on the earlier performance.

Japan: Without a shadow of a doubt, Japan sits right at the top of the ranking and their chances of lifting the trophy for the fourth time are quite high. Not only did the Japanese perform well at the Asian level, they even managed to beat the best of Europe in their own home. A 4-1 result against Germany will stand as a monument of the might of the Japanese and the resilience, power, and strength of depth of this team. Japan also put 4 past Turkey and Canada also beat Tunisia 2-0. Before that Japan toyed with El Salvador beating them 6-0 and five days later Japan gave Peru a lesson in football with a 4-1 win just before humiliating Germany 4-1.

It does not take much expertise to predict that Japan is the team to beat. that is easier said than done.


Coach: Hajime Moriyasu (from 2018-)

Injured or Suspect Players: Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal) – Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton)


Odds: 1 : 3.2


South Korea has a star-studded squad, and by the virtue of having perhaps the best Asian footballer in Son Heung-Min, the chances of this team are only second to Japan. Despite their results not matching the greatness of Japan, they are still a powerful team with a great military-like discipline that has a lot to say in Qatar. They have demonstrated their strength against Iran and can surprise any of the teams. The recent appointment of the German Jurgen Klinsmann and and former hero Ch Du-ri as an assistant and perhaps an interpreter as Cha is fluent in German, shows that the Korean FA are determined to seriously challenge for the title that eluded them since 1956. A strong team with many stars playing in Europe the Koreans are confident that this might be their year.


Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann (from 2023)

Injured or Suspect Players: NONE


3/10/23FRIKorea Republic4 – 0Tunisia
17/10/23FRIKorea Republic6 – 0Vietnam
16/11/23AWCKorea Republic5 – 0Singapore
21/11/23AWCChina PR0 – 3Korea Republic
06/01/24FRIIraq0 – 1Korea Republic

Odds: 1 : 5.5


Iran, under Amir Ghalenoei, has proven to be one of the strongest in Asia and a difficult team to beat. Despite a few problems and shortfalls the team has enough talent to seriously challenge the likes of Japan and South Korea. In Azmoun and Taremi, Iran has a prolific duo up front not matched by any other Asian team. A near-half-century wait to lift the Asian Cup will give the Persians the greatest motive in making this tournament one to remember for the Iranian Fans.


Coach: Amir Ghalenoei (from 2022)

Injured or Suspect Players: Ramin Rezaeian (under treatment)


17/10/23FRIQatar0 – 4IR Iran
16/11/23AWCIR Iran4 – 0Hong Kong, China
21/11/23AWCUzbekistan2 – 2IR Iran
05/01/24FRIIR Iran2 – 1Burkina Faso
09/01/24FRIIndonesia0 – 5IR Iran

Odds: 1:8


Australia, a powerhouse in Asian football a team that has already lifted the title once at home in 2015. The Socceroos is still a force to be reckoned with in this year’s edition. The Socceroos are a mix of experienced and young players with 19 of the 26 currently plying trade in European leagues while only four are playing in the domestic A-League. The remaining three play in Japan and Saudi Arabia.


Coach: Graham Arnold (from 2018)

Injured or Suspect Players: None


13/10/23FRIEngland1 – 0Australia
17/10/23FRIAustralia2 – 0New Zealand
16/11/23AWCAustralia7 – 0Bangladesh
21/11/23AWCPalestine0 – 1Australia
06/01/24FRIBahrain0 – 2Australia

Odds: 1:6.5


Saudi Arabia: Conquerors of Argentina in the group stage at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia are is on nearly equal terms in challenging for the trophy with Iran and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League underwent a huge transformation in 2023 with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, and Neymar headlining an importation of talent that lifted the competition to a new level. That uplift will, in turn, have had a trickle-down effect on the Saudi players already plying their trade in the league. The recruitment of the most expensive coach in the tournament shows how the Saudi Government is determined to win this Asian Cup. Surprisingly, the last two friendly matches against Hong Kong and Palestine, both Team Mellio opponents at the group stages, were less than convincing.


Coach: Roberto Mancini (from 2023)

Injured or Suspect Players: None


16/11/23AWCSaudi Arabia4 – 0Pakistan
21/11/23AWCJordan0 – 2Saudi Arabia
04/01/24FRISaudi Arabia1 – 0Lebanon
09/01/24FRISaudi Arabia0 – 0Palestine
10/01/24FRISaudi Arabia2 – 0Hong Kong

Odds: 1:8


Uzbekistan intends to gate-crash the party. The Central Asian teams have seen a big stride in football from youth to senior level. In this third stint at the helm of an Asian nation, Katanec will be — at the very least — looking to achieve with Uzbekistan what he managed with Iraq at the 2019 Asian Cup, when he led his former side to the round of 16 before they were beaten by eventual champions Qatar. The team has many young players augmenting the experiences of the likes of Eldor Shomurodov a player who has been the best in Uzbekistan football in the last few years.

Qatar: The Defending Champions and Host is considered an outsider. The Team has suffered under the Carlos Queiroz regime. The Qatari selectors failed in their due diligence in picking Queiroz who is a devotee of defensive football while the Qatari Team has always thrived in their attacking mentality. That marriage did not last long and now Qatar under a new head coach Tintin Márquez has a mountain to climb. An experienced Spaniard drafted in from Qatar Stars League side Al Wakrah, Márquez was appointed less than a month out from the Asian Cup after the Qatar FA sacked former Real Madrid boss Carlos Queiroz.

Age factor in AFC Asian Cup 2023

It is hardly surprising that Team Melli, one of the contenders for lifting the AFC Asian Cup, has the highest average age among the teams who are also laying a claim for the prestigious continental title.

The AFC Asian Cup 2023, which was originally scheduled to be held in China, will instead start in Qatar in a fortnight after a year delay as Iran will take on Palestine in its first match.

Japan, Australia, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia in addition to Iran are traditionally among the strongest contenders for the championship in Asia, while Uzbekistan and host Qatar, can be included among the contenders. In the 27-man list that Amir Ghalenoei has published, there are a few names added, but it is doubtful if any one of them will feature in the upcoming matches.

Team Melli will only have a cosmetic change as the structure has remained quite exclusive since the 2018 World Cup until today. In fact, two aging players Omid Ebrahimi and Karim Ansarifard are part of the squad after being out for some time.

Much has been said about the aging Team Melli and the reluctance of Ghalenoei to introduce younger and promising players on the pretense of a shortage of time! however, it is interesting to compare the average age of other teams to find if younger age claims translate to success.

There is no doubt that Japan is the team to beat in this tournament. They have the strongest and most feared team that has beaten the likes of Germany amongst many other teams. Among these seven top contenders, the Japanese national football team is the youngest average age of 25.1 years. Uzbekistan is 25.68 years, Saudi Arabia is the third with 26 years and Australians follow at 26.15, while South Korea has an average age of 27.8 and Qatar with an average of 27.9 years (see table below)

The average age of the players of the Iranian national team is 28.6 years, which is the highest compared to the other five contenders.

Amir Ghalenoei once again has drawn the line on the names of young players, including Mohammad Amin Hizbavi, Abolfazl Jalali, Allahyar Sayadmanesh, Saeed Saharkhizan, and others, preferring experienced and seasoned players. Although the age of players is one factor for a victorious team, it is by no means the only factor.

It has been a tradition amongst the Iranian coaches to stick to a group of few players that they can rely on. That is painfully clear at club levels, however, at the international level within a short period where the teams play an average of a game every three or four days, that could become a liability, especially with older players who do not have the energy to be involved in intense competitions.

#TeamAverage Age23 & below30 & above
3Saudi Arabia2694
5Korea Rep.27.8410
Players Average Age

Uzbekistan to host Team Melli in Tashkent


Tashkent: Uzbekistan will play Iran on Tuesday in a meeting between two sides looking to establish an early advantage in Group E of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.

Both opened their campaigns with resounding wins on Thursday while Hong Kong, China, and Turkmenistan will square off needing the points. 

Iran, seeking to qualify for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup, were in a class of their own against Hong Kong at the Azadi Stadium on Matchday One.

Sardar Azmoun led the way with a brace as Iran staked an early claim on a spot in the next round.

Uzbekistan were equally impressive, defeating Central Asian rivals Turkmenistan away as they started their campaign to make the third round after missing out on the same stage for the 2022 edition. 

Hong Kong will hope home comforts will carry them past Turkmenistan as the East Asian side look to maintain their recent momentum which saw them returning to the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1968 and qualifying for the Asian Games semi-finals for the first time.

Turkmenistan, however, will be equally desperate to get points on the board and home advantage may not be enough for Hong Kong. 

Tuesday’s fixtures
Hong Kong, China v Turkmenistan
Venue: Hong Kong Stadium (Hong Kong)
Kick-off: 20:00 (UTC+8)

Uzbekistan v Iran
Venue: Bunyodkor Stadium (Tashkent)
Kick-off: 18:00 (UTC+5)

Alireza Jahanbakhsh is out due to injury.

There was some bad news for Team Melli winger, Alireza Jahanbakhsh following the match against Hong Kong on Thursday.

After a loose ball clash, Jahanbakhsh was visibly in pain due to a leg injury and was subsequently substituted, In the post-match therapy, the Feyenoord winger was withdrawn from Team Melli camp and will proceed to the Netherlands to continue the diagnosis and treatment.
The media department of Team Melli, Dr. Prahan Khanleri, the Chief Medical Officer of the team, said that Alireza Jahanbakhsh has suffered a slight hamstring injury during last night’s match against Hong Kong, and accordingly, for treatment of this injury, he has to be out of action for at least two weeks rest period. He added: With the decision made, Jahanbakhsh will leave for Holland on Sunday to treat his injury, so it is not possible for this player to join the group for the match against Uzbekistan.
Team Melli defeated Hong Kong 4-0 in the first match of the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers on Thursday evening.

World Cup qualifiers starts for Team Melli.

Preview – Group E: Turkmenistan v Uzbekistan; IR Iran v Hong Kong, China

Tehran: Iran are the clear favourites to advance from Group E of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.
Iran, seeking to qualify for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup, face Hong Kong, China on Thursday with Turkmenistan hosting Uzbekistan.
Iran’s array of stars means Hong Kong will face a stern test of their credentials at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Having suffered heartbreak at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Iran will be determined to qualify for the 2026 edition after having failed to advance from the group stage in all their previous six appearances at the global showpiece.

Hong Kong, however, will not be lacking in confidence after having sealed a return to the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1968 and having advanced to the semi-finals of the Asian Games for the first time in the recent Hangzhou edition.

Turkmenistan, the only team in the group not heading to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, will be fired up to erase that disappointment by enjoying a good run in the Preliminary Joint Qualification.

Uzbekistan will be familiar foes, with their Central Asian rivals on a mission to advance to the third round after missing out in 2022.

Thursday’s fixtures
Turkmenistan v Uzbekistan
Venue: Ashgabat Stadium (Ashgabat)
Kick-off: 19:00 (UTC+4)

IR Iran v Hong Kong, China
Venue: Azadi Stadium (Tehran)
Kick-off: 18:00 (UTC+3:30)

Omid Team starts with an impressive win.

Tashkent: Iran and Uzbekistan look set to battle for the sole automatic ticket to the AFC U23 Asian Cup™ Qatar 2024 Finals after impressive wins in Group E of the Qualifiers on Wednesday. 

Omid Team opened their campaign with a 3-0 win over Hong Kong, China while hosts Uzbekistan sailed 8-1 past Afghanistan.

Iran started on the front foot at the Lokomotiv Stadium and their positive approach paid early dividends, with defender Amin Hazbavi giving them a second minute lead.

The U23 team continued to dictate terms for the remainder of the first half and were rewarded again just before the break with Mohammad Ghorbani doubling their advantage in the 44th minute after heading into the net from a perfect cross.

Hong Kong, China fought valiantly in the second half to find a way back but substitute Allahyar Sayyadmanesh of Hull City ,settled the proceedings with Iran’s third goal in the 88th minute. 

Omid Team will play Afghanistan next Saturday.

Omid team starts the long march against Hong Kong.

Iran’s Omid Team (U23) and also the Olympic team is embarking on a long journey for qualification to the Olympics Games Paris 2024 with a game against Hong Kong.

This match is in the qualification rounds for AFC U23 Championship in which the top 4 teams qualifies for the Olympics. Host Uzbekistan will be the most serious opponent of this group that includes Afghanistan as well.

Under a relatively inexperienced coach, Reza Enayat’s Omid Team is hoping once again to break the long tradition of failures to qualify for the Olympics since 1980. These failures occur even with the availability of quality players under this age bracket. Many Omid teams had Team Melli players, but still failed to qualify with the team falling at different hurdles.

Reza Enyati, the former Team Melli striker, will hardly set the football world alight with his resume and experience in coaching. His short career started in 2019 with Qashqaei and then in the same season, Havadar before moving on to Naft Masjed Soleiman, all teams at the lower end of the tables or in lower tier of football in Iran.

Yet, Enayati, a demanding character, has managed some respectable results with the team so far. He will undoubtedly have a hard and testing times against better. more prepared and organized teams not to mention much experience coaches. It is remains to be seen if Enyati can stand up to the challenge by boosting his players and cover technical and tactical deficiencies by utilizing individual skills and solid defense the team is well capable of.

In toddy’s match , Reza Enayati, the starting lineup against Hong Kong as follows: Mohammad Reza Khaledabadi, Saman Touranian, Hossein Goudarzi, Amin Hizbavi, Mohammad Javad Hosseinnejad, Yasin Salmani, Aria Yousefi, Amir Jafari, Mohammad Ghorbani, Mehdi Hashminejad, Mohammad Reza Bardbar.

The match starts at 15:30 ,(Iran Time) at Lokomotiv Stadium in Tashkent. This meeting will be held in the first stage of the Olympic qualifiers.

What is behind KananiZadegan’s childish act?

Mohammad Hossein Kanani-Zadegan in his own right, is perhaps not brilliant but a good defender who has shown that he can compete with the best if he puts his mind to it. He represented his country at youth levels in the U17 in 2008, U20 in 2011, and U23 in 2014 teams before getting a call for Team Melli in 2015. However, it is quite clear that his brain and attitude have not grown since he was on the U17 team.

Long known for his indiscipline and indiscretion, Kananizadegan nearly ruined the final of the CAFA Nations Cup 2023 in the final minute of the match in which Team Melli was winning and in no danger of losing it, by the defender’s unprofessional and childish behavior.

Referring to such an attitude, a former Team Melli player said “It is a pity that such a player with such ethics and immature behavior is a member Of team Melli.” Said Mehdi Fonoonizadeh. “ You won’t observe such behavior from kids playing in back alleys of our cities, yet this guy does it at the international level! “

Fonoonozadeh who strongly criticized Kanaizadegan continued “ He sits on the ground like a child and doesn’t want to leave the field after being sent off. The clash that happened after that between the two sets of players which also sent the bench of both teams into the field, was all due to Kananizadegan’s childlike behavior threatening the continuation of the match and fights between players.”

“ This controversy by the amateurish Kanaizadegan put the game in disrepute and the reputation of our national football was called into question because of one ugly conduct. I hope the management and coaching staff, especially Amir Ghalenoei, will deal with this issue with full force, and not allow these ill-manners to creep into Team Melli”.

Fonoonizadeh concluded by saying “ If we intend to claim the AFC Asian Cup against professional opponents, fully prepared physically and mentally, by such indiscretions and indiscipline, it will definitely cause the Asian Football Confederation to have a different view towards our country’s football.”

The last time Kanaizadegan was in hot water was when he was caught during the Covid curfew trying to sneak a girl into the Team Melli camp during Dragan Skocic’s reign. The Croat coach was criticized by many for failing to discipline the player, however, and under much pressure from the media, the FFIRI suspended Kanainzadegan for a meaningless friendly months after the incident.

Without blowing this incident to a bigger proportion, the fear is that indiscipline amongst Team Melli is growing quite alarmingly and so with it is the players’ power. Generally speaking, Iranian coaches have not been proven efficient in controlling players’ misbehavior. Amir Ghalenoei is more inclined to praise his team and ignore their shortcomings and behavioral indiscretion. He is also excellent at diverting blame after defeats. So, expecting a strong reaction from Iranian coaches is like expecting a midnight sun. Mehdi Taj and his entourage are even less inclined to sanction players.

Fonoonizadeh was not the only football personality who criticized Kananizadegan, many others did so too, but the deadly silence of the federation and the coaching staff, up to now, towards Kananizadegan case, might expose a much bigger problem within the camp. The repeated messages about how the players are working together and being cordial to each other make one wonder why such news is filtered through by the media. Such unity between players should be a norm in any national team camp, why is it being constantly highlighted here?

Does it take the case of Kananizadegan to find out who is really running Team Melli?

Team Melli lifts the CAFA Nations Cup 2023

Iran’s national football team defeated host nation Uzbekistan in the final of the CAFA tournament to lift the inaugural championship

A goal by the second leading goal scorer of the tournament, Sardar Azmoun in the 48th minute from a nice assist by Mehdi Taremi settled the match early in the second half.

While the two teams were testing each other, a cross from the Uzbek winger saw the clumsy Beiranvand rushing out in an attempt to punch the ball clear without an awareness of the position of his teammates, as such he managed to punch the ball and the head of Saeid Eztollahi leaving the midfielder bleeding in the head. Beiranvand himself was also injured and could not continue. He was replaced by Payam Niazmand. A repeat performance for Beiranvand against England in the FIFA World Cup.

The physical nature of the game against Uzbekistan led by the absent Serco Katanic, due to illness, caused the referee to repeatedly blow his whistle for fouls.

The most serious threat of the first half was the Uzbeks’ counterattack by Uranov in the 43rd minute, where the ball hit the post. Apart from that, no real action was created by the two sets of forwards.

in the second half, Vahid Amiri replaced the ineffective Mehdi Ghaeid in order for the two strikers to get a better service from the flank. Ghalenoei’s change of plan paid off soon after the re-start for the second half. Taremi got the bell from the left flank and saw Azmoun free right in the box, his pass was well controlled by Sardar who then composed himself to shoot powerfully into the net to announce the first goal.

After this goal, Team Melli tried to control the game’s pace rather than go out on an all-out attack. They played a logical possession football with some intricate passing that was delightful. Niazmand was hardly tested by the Uzbeks players who were getting frustrated as the time went on.

Next, the Uzbeks tried to threaten the depth of the Iranian national team’s defense with their long passes, realizing the slow pace of the defenders, especially Hajsafi and Pouraliganji. In one attack, they nearly managed to score when the Uzbeck player found himself in plenty of space left behind Hajsafi and then a dribble past Poyralganji but haste and Nizamand’s timely interception prevented the Uzbel player from scoring.

In a match that neither team managed to take control of and which was about to end victoriously and peacefully for Team Melli, a petulant act from the notorious Hossein Kananizadegan nearly threatened to erupt the match right at the end.

Kananizadegan, who was earlier cautioned by the Russian referee for one of his silly and totally uncalled-for fouls when he pushed the Uzbek keeper, Yusupov, while he was trying to shoot, The center back got the second card in the 90th minute when he started a childish protest against something that he did not like demanding a penalty. His zealous protest led the Russian referee to award him another yellow card and subsequently the red and the marching order.

The center back, sulking and crying foul refused to leave the field and instead, he sat down on the lawn in protest. This aggravated the Uzbek players, a couple of whom tried to lift Kananizadegan up and force him out of the field where he should be rather than on the lawn. An altercation between the two teams’ players followed and if it was not for some cool heads from both sides, the situation could have turned quite ugly scenes.

After Kananizadegan’s petulant act and his dismissal, Ghalenoei did not risk it and replaced Mohammad Karimi who himself replaced Azamoun in the 75th minute, with Majid Hosseini to secure the heart of the defense.

The match ended 1-0 and was a deserved victory for Team Melli.

Oman took third place after defeating Kyrgyzstan 1-0