Taremi determined to power Iran to 2026 Finals

Taremi determined to power IR Iran to 2026 Finals
www.the-afc.com – AFC ASIAN QUALIFIERSTUE, 25 JUNE, 2024

Kuala Lumpur: The pain of the Islamic Republic of Iran’s semi-final exit at the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ still stings for Mehdi Taremi but, as the striker tells the-AFC.com, he is choosing to look towards the future; to his impending move to Serie A giants Inter Milan and to what he hopes will be another FIFA World Cup Finals appearance.

No nation knows semi-final heartbreak at the AFC Asian Cup quite like IR Iran; on seven occasions since 1976 – the most recent of the country’s three consecutive continental titles – Team Melli have fallen one hurdle before the tournament’s deciding match.

The latest loss remains fresh in the mind of Mehdi Taremi, the talismanic striker whose goals in recent years have been one of the drivers of his country’s qualification for the last two FIFA World Cup Finals, but who continue to fall short of a fourth AFC Asian Cup.

The 3-2 defeat to hosts Qatar – the defending champions who would go on to retain the title – in February hurt so much that Taremi has refused to watch reruns of the game and shies away from discussing the defeat.

#AsianCup2023 | Semi-final : Islamic Republic Of Iran 2 - 3 Qatar

“After the Qatar game, I never saw the game and I haven’t talked until now about that game,” he tells the-AFC.com. “I don’t want to look back and think about the past.

“We’re always thinking about what is in front of us. We’re looking forward to the next step and who we are going to play against.

“It’s still painful. I think we deserved to win the Asian Cup. We created a lot of chances there, we missed a lot of chances but that’s football.”

Missing scoring opportunities is not a characteristic often associated with Taremi. The 31-year-old hit a hat-trick against Hong Kong, China earlier this month to record his 48th goal in 804 matches as he continued his long-standing run of form for Iran.

It is his ability in front of goal that has seen Taremi establish himself among the leading scorers in European club football since his move to Portugal to join Rio Ave from Al Gharafa in Qatar before a subsequent move to Porto, where he has spent the last four seasons.

Taremi’s time on the Iberian peninsula, however, has come to an end with the expiration of his contract with the Estadio de Dragao-based club, and a new adventure in Italy with Inter Milan awaits.

“That five years, it has created this Mehdi,” he says of his time in Portugal, where he scored 112 times in 217 games in all competitions.

“I have become a more experienced guy, I have become a more professional guy and all of those people who have helped me there I appreciate all of those guys, the staff the players at Rio Ave club and at Porto as well. They have created this Mehdi.

“When you play in Asia and in Europe it’s completely different. There you have to be more professional, otherwise you cannot play at a high level.

“In Asia you have to too, but how they play there is faster and quicker and the games are at a higher level. When you play in the UEFA Champions League you have to be ready, you have to play against big players, big teams and that has made me different.”

Taremi’s ability in front of goal led to significant speculation over his next destination and, while the rumour mill generated talk of numerous possibilities, it was the newly crowned Italian champions who won the battle for his signature.

It is a move the Bushehr-born forward is relishing as it presents him with another opportunity to feature once more in the UEFA Champions League.

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“Inter has a strong team and from what I’ve seen on the TV the players are friendly, the team are strong and they are compact, together,” he says.

“I think there is a good feeling there between the players and the coaches. Inter is a big club and because of that I chose Inter. I want to play in Italy, I want to show myself there too.

“Since I was seven, eight years old I saw a lot of games in Italy, Spain, England, everywhere. When you watch the games you’re a supporter of the big clubs and Inter is one of those. I remember many things of Inter in the UEFA Champions League, in the league and the history of Inter and that makes me happy to go there. It convinced me to go there.

“My goal is to help the team as I can. I’ll try to do my job, scoring and assists. So let’s see what’s going to happen.”

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While Taremi will be adjusting to his new surroundings at the Stadio Giuseppe Meazza – better known around the world as San Siro – he will also be attempting to ensure Iran qualify for another FIFA World Cup finals.

Having failed to score in his first FIFA World Cup appearance in Russia in 2018, Taremi was twice on target at Qatar 2022 against England and his aim is to improve on that tally in the Canada, Mexico and United States edition in 2026.

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“I always try to think about football and about my future,” he says. “I put a lot of effort each day into my job.

“The main goal is, first of all we have to go to the World Cup, and then my main goal is I have to try my best to score more than two goals at the next World Cup. So let’s see.”