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Asian Cup

Reviewing Games From AFC Asian Cup Group C

qat ira

This is a group that featured one dead rubber and a game that would determine who would finish on top.

Iran eventually came up trumps against an impressive United Arab Emirates in a tense match. Indeed if the UAE were more clinical in front of goal they could have topped Group C but instead it was Iran who dug deep and conjured up a winner in the dying moments of the game.

The other match was a battle for the wooden spoon and it was 2022 World Cup hosts Qatar who eventually went home empty handed. The Bahrainis extended their unbeaten run against Qatar having not lost the previous 13 encounters between the two.

Once again, the AFC Asian Cup witnessed definitive results in both matches. That makes it 22 games without a stalemate it truly is a quite remarkable statistic.

Programming note: For viewers in the United States, the tournament is being shown exclusively on One World Sports and DishWorld. Even if you don’t have a TV subscription to One World Sports, you can access the channel via online streaming service DishWorld for $10/month. Sign up for DishWorld via their website.

Bahrain 2 Qatar 1 

The Bahrainis exited the Asian Cup with three points courtesy of a long range effort from Sayed Ahmed Jaffar eight minutes from time. ‘Long range effort’ is a generous description of the goal as much of it owed to a misjudgment from Qatari keeper Qasem Burhan.

In fact at both ends of the pitch the woodwork seemed more secure and reliable than either goalkeeper coming to the aid of both Bahrain and Qatar.

The opening goal did come from a moment of quality produced by Faouzi Aaish who jinked his way into the penalty box before setting up a chance for Sayed Dhiya Shubbar who still had a bit of work to do to find the corner of the Qatari net.

The Qatari equalizer came from a moment of ingenuity from Hasan Al-Haydos. He gambled on hitting his free kick low and the Bahraini wall obligingly jumped over the shot leaving keeper Hamad Al-Doseri with little chance.

In fairness the Qataris had the better of the 90 minutes, out passing their opponents and taking the initiative. They bossed possession and had 18 shots with five on target. Unfortunately, their lack of a clinical edge cost them and in the 82nd minute Sayed Ahmed Jaffar’s hopeful effort caught Qasem Burhan off guard with the Qatari keeper deceived by the flight of the ball. By the time he readjusted it was too late.

Bahraini coach Marjan Eid acknowledged that his team did have the rub of the green in this encounter though he was keen to point out that lady luck wasn’t kind to his side in the previous two matches.

Djamel Belmadi bemoaned his side’s busy schedule in the run-up to the Asian Cup stating:

“In one year, we had three competitions, which is a lot for a national team. We won two, so it’s something that’s not easy. One West Asian Cup at home, one Gulf Cup away from home in Saudi Arabia and we know how difficult it is to win there. Maybe, this third competition is too much for us, especially when you have a short time between the competitions, only one month between. It’s not an excuse, but a fact. In three competitions, we won two of them. Maybe I will analyze about this. It’s about our level, maybe too many competitions for one year.”

Belmadi may not have much time to analyze Qatar’s performance as speculation is rife that he will be relieved of his position. This tournament has been a forgettable experience for Qatar who failed to produce on Asia’s biggest stage. All focus now will be on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup in Russia but the Qataris may embark on that journey without Belmadi.

Iran 1 United Arab Emirates 0

The 1-0 score line suggests a tight game, which it was, but it doesn’t reflect a wonderfully fascinating match between the United Arab Emirates and Iran.

The game ebbed and flowed and the United Arab Emirates took the game to their more illustrious counterparts and for all intensive purposes bossed the proceedings. Their play was slick, inventive and industrious. They stroked the ball with confidence as they searched for a way to break down an obdurate and resolute Iranian defense. They had the lion’s share of the ball, made over double the number of passes compared to Iran but crucially didn’t manage to produce a single shot on target.

Much like Australia against South Korea, the United Arab Emirates learned a harsh lesson. Dominance means nothing without goals and any lapse in concentration will be punished.

Once again Omar Abdulrahman was the star of the show outshining the Iranian Messi Sardar Azmoun. Abdulrahman’s reading and understanding of the game seems instinctive and natural, football comes easy to him. The UAE playmaker was at the heart of anything good produced by the Emiratis his passing was sharp and incisive and he didn’t allow his marker Javad Nekounam the opportunity to shackle him. The only thing missing from Abdulrahman’s Asian Cup collection is a goal to cap off his fine displays. A recent column on ESPN FC suggested that the Asian Cup has yet to see a bona fide star but if anyone has the potential to become this tournament’s outstanding player it is the UAE number 10.

That said the Iranians weren’t exactly slouches either creating dangerous chances whilst remaining tight at the back, a hallmark of this side under Carlos Queiroz. The question is whether Iran will be willing to come out of their shell in the knock-out matches. Indeed for all the attacking talent at their disposal Iran were relatively unambitious and it will be interesting to see how they would respond if required to force the issue. For this game though Queiroz chose to bench some of his bigger names like Ashkan Dejagah, Masoud Shojaei and Reza Ghoochaanejhad placing the attacking burden on Azmoun.

That said their discipline and organization was impressive and Iran’s opponents will need to take their chances against Team Melli because under Queiroz this side does not give away too many clear cut opportunities. Iran’s ability to pull a result out of the fire in the dying seconds, an experience Queiroz is familiar with during his days at Manchester United, will no doubt please the Portuguese coach.

Make no mistake, Reza Ghoochannejhad’s stoppage time header was vitally important. If the match had ended up as a stalemate then Iran would have finished second in the group.

Mahdi Ali, justifiably, said his team deserved something from the game but is looking forward to the quarterfinals.

“This is football. Sometimes, you see the side of football you don’t want to see. We didn’t deserve to lose the game but we lost. Now we have to focus on our game against Japan”.

Queiroz for his part stated:

“It was a good win against the UAE as in my opinion they are the best football team in West Asia – they have beautiful players and good combinations and have played together for a long time. It is difficult to play against them as they play like a club team. (We) showed good concentration and played with a fantastic attitude and were willing to sacrifice for the team. We played a passing game and were better than UAE in terms of penetration and movement. It was a great football game, very emotional and skilful.”

The United Arab Emirates can go into their quarterfinal match with confidence as they have been playing some of the best soccer in the Asian Cup.

Iran have proved that they will be extremely difficult to beat. Judging from the group games Iran are a team set-up not lose. Team Melli are well-drilled and if they take the lead it’s hard to see anyone breaking down such an organized and disciplined unit.

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