Iran face Chinese Wall in quest for first Championship in 42 years
Iran face off today against China in Abu Dhabi at the Mohammad Bin Zayed stadium in the second quarter final match of the day after Japan and Vietnam conclude their match. Iran have thus far impressed in the tournament and are one of two teams yet to concede a goal and China will have to work hard to break that record.
Iran and China have a long history in Asian football. Since the 2000 they have met nine times with Iran winning five of those matches, losing two and two were a tie match. Of the nine four were international friendlies, two were Asian Cup matches and two were FIFA World Cup qualifying matches.
Statistics aside in any given game anything can happen. Four years ago in Australia Iran met Iraq in the quarter final. A match in which Iran was also the favourite and the scoreline showed it until a controversial sending off that reduced Iran to 10 men. Iran went on to lose the game on penalty kicks. China will be looking to inflict the same surprise on Iran as Iraq did four years ago.
Iran are on a quest to win it all. Carlos Queiroz is out of contract and wants to leave with a bang. Although he has managed to gain Iran respect on the international football scene he has not won any silverware. This is his last opportunity.
Iran took top spot in group D and faced Oman in the second round. Oman were facing steep odds but in the first minute of the match Oman earned a penalty kick. Alireza Beiranvand, the Iranian keeper, was determined to keep a tournament clean sheet and saved the penalty kick. Iran went on to win the match comfortably 2-0 but it could have been far worse if Sardar Azmoun had not had an off day.
Alireza Jahanbaksh and Ashkan Dejagah impressed against Oman. Jahanbakhsh was playing his second match back from injury he can continue to improve.
This should be an Iranian win but underestimate China would be fatal for Iran. Carlos Quieroz must make sure that the team plays with the same discipline and focus as they did when they faced Argentina, Spain and Portugal. If they do then Iran may wrap up the match quickly. If not then Carlos may be heading out from a long term coaching role without any silverware.
Kick off: 8pm Abu Dhabi time.