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Asian Cup 2019 – Qatar Champions of Asia

Japan and Qatar met in the final o the Asian Cup 2019 a the Sheikh Zayed Sports City stadium to play for the right to be Asian Champions. Japan overcame Iran in the semi final while Qatar was the winner of the blockade derby against the host name UAE.

In the 12th minute Al Moez took control of the ball and was given enough time to bring it under control before a bicycle kick put it past Japanese keeper Shuichi Gonda.

Qatar’s first goal was against the run of play but did give the Qatari’s the upper hand soon after as the Japanese seemed rattled.

In the 26th minute Abelaziz al Hatim put Qatar ahead by two when he struck from outside the boss to the right of the Japanese keeper. The similarities between the two goals was that Japanese captainMaya Yoshida gave the Qatar players space.

Qatar went close again when the Qatari captain, Al Haydos, struck the post after picking up a bouncing ball in the penalty box. The first half lacked any serious Japanese threat on the Qatar goal.

Japan didn’t waste time int he second half to get on the front foot and find a way to get back into the match. It took Qatar ten minutes into the second half before they put on an offensive display that could have ended the competition. It seemed clear that at this point Qatar would be relying on counter attacking football to inflict the fatal goal.

In the 68th minute the Samurai finally broke through and scored the first goal of the Asian cup on the Qatari side. Takumi Minamino received the ball on top of the 18 yard line and successfully turned in Japan’s first of the match.

The Japanese as expected continued to push for the equalizer and Qatar was sitting back protecting the lead. Qatar were given a lifeline when in the 81st minute the Uzbek referee gave a penalty for an apparent hand ball. Although the ball did strike the hand of Yoshido in the box, it was yet another controversial penalty call.

Akram Afif stepped up and put Qatar up 3-1. Game over.

Qatar are crowned Asian Champions for the first time in the history of the Asian Cup. Japan failed to win it for a record fifth time.

Asian Cup 2019 – Japan meet Qatar in the Final

Qatar overcame a highly sensitive semi-final against host nation UAE and will meet Japan. Qatar scored two goals either side of the half and managed to keep a clean sheet. Qatar will be the first team to reach the finals without a single goal conceded in the tournament.

The meeting of Qatar and UAE was dubbed the “blockade” derby making it a highly sensitive clash. The political backstory created the expectation that it would be a close match. It was not to be and Qatar ended the UAE’s Asian Cup hopes with a 4-0 win.

The match was relatively balanced until the 22nd minute of the first half when Boualem Khoukhi put Qatar in front. Khoukhi seemed to have missed the opportunity to play the ball into the path of his team mate who was running into the box. Khoukhi instead went for goal and a blunder by the Emarati keeper saw the ball go under his hands and into the net.

Fifteen minutes later Almoez Ali picked up the ball on the left side of the box, turn toward the Emarati goal and curved a sublime shot onto the far post through a number of Emarati defenders and past the keepers hands.

The second half was more of the same with the Emarati team pushing to get back into the match but finding it difficult to get a ball past the Qatar keeper. In a quick back and forth where a Qatari mistake gave the UAE an opportunity it was Qatar which ended up taking advantage.

Hassan Al Haidos saw the ball bounce through the middle of the field into his path with only the keeper ahead of him and did not hesitate to fake the keeper and then chip the ball over into the net. It was 3-0 in the 81st minute. The fourth goal came in injury time through Hamid Ismail.

It has been a good tournament for Qatar. A team that has played with very few fans in the stadium due to the ban on Qatar citizens visiting the UAE. Much of the support the Qatari’s had was thanks to Omani fans.

Final Match: February 1st 2019 Kick off at 6pm UAE time.

Asian Cup 2019 – Iran Crash Out as Japan head to Final

Reign of Queiroz over

Iran crashed out of the Asian Cup in a dramatic game that saw Japan not only score a first goal on Iran in this Asian cup but score three before the match was over. A match that was billed a battle of giants turned on a moment of undisciplined behaviour by Iran’s players. A team that was praised for very well organized and disciplined play at the World Cup fell due to the lack of exactly that.

The first half of the match was a balanced affair with Iran’s Sardar Azmoun coming very close from a tight angel. What became apparent in the first half was the long balls that were being sent towards Sardar Azmoun. It was not clear why Iran resorted to these long balls because thye were most dangerous when they built up from the back.

The second half came to a quick start as Iran instantly went on the attack. The Iranian team felt confident they would get the upper hand and everything looked like they may very well see the first goal of the match. A Japanese counter turned the match on its head.

Eleven minutes into the second half Takumi Minamino ran up the field on a counter and Hossein Kanani was marking him when he went down. Kanani and a few other Iranian players protested to the referee that Kanani was acting and they forgot about Kanani. Kanani got up and recovered the ball and from there crossed in for Yuya Osako to finish. It was a moment of unprofessionalism. A lack of focus and discipline lead to the goal.

Iran had never been behind in this Asian cup and pushed ahead to score the equalizer. Just as Iran was beginning to get the upper hand Japan were awarded a controversial penalty kick by the Australian referee. Pouraliganji slide to block a cross and the ball went to hand. It was a call which most of the time would not be called for the lack of intent and for the ball going to hand. It added more Australian history to Iranian minds as Japan put away the second. It was all falling apart.

The Iranian team fought valiantly and pushed up to see if there was a miracle. It was not to be. Japan put in a third in the 92nd minute to break Iranian hearts.

Carlos Queiroz in his post match conference refereed to this loss as the most painful loss. He knows that Iran deserved to be in the final and in his social media post said so. He will be leaving Iran after eight years of building a very good team but lacking any silverware to show for it.

Iran will now have to wait another four years to take back the coveted Asian Cup that has alluded Iran for forty two years, since 1976. Where Iran’s team goes from here is the question on many fans minds. A new chapter will soon begin.

Asian Cup 2019 – Iran vs Japan: Battle for history

Iran and Japan kick off the Asian Cup semi final round tomorrow in Al Ain. Qatar and UAE complete the semi final round on Tuesday in a politically loaded encounter. While politics is the highlight of the second semi final the match between Iran and Japan is a battle for history.

Iran have not won the Asian Cup since 1976 when they won it for the third time in a row. Japan have won the cup four times, the most of any Asian nation. Both nations have pride to fight for. Iran will want to stop Japan from having an opportunity to win it for a fifth time. Japan will want to stop Iran from matching their win record.

Japan have reach this stage of the tournament by beating each of the teams they faced by a single solitary goal. They have not been convincing and are not considered to be as dominant as past tournaments. This has been surprising given Japan’s excellent performance at the World Cup only eight months ago in Russia.

Iran have become sole favourites to win the Cup after South Korea and Australia crashed out unexpectedly. Iran have scored 12 goals on the way to the semi final and have conceded 0 goals thus far. The Iranian team is considered to be the most complete team at the tournament with strength at the top of the field as well as in the back.

Iran versus Japan is 90 minutes of football away from the final for team Iran. It is bound to be the hardest 90 minutes and it will be a risky match. Carlos Queiroz will have to make sure his team are not fooled by the favourites tag and take Japan very seriously.

Kick off: 18:00 Abu Dhabi time

Asian Cup 2019 – Quarter Finals – Iran vs. China

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.

Match Report: Iran – Oman Round of 16 – Asian Cup 2019

Iran cruise pasts Oman for a date with China

In the second minute of the match it looked like Iran may be facing a disappointing night. Oman’s Muhsen Al Ghassani was brought down by Majid Hosseini in the penalty box and the referee instantly pointed to the spot. The Omani captain, Ahmed Al Mahaijri, stepped up to the spot and sent the ball to the right of Alireza Beiranvand but Beiranvand had guessed right and met the ball before it crossed into the goal. It was a crucial save at the very start of the match. That was the most serious threat on the Iranian goal.

Iran responded positively and controlled the match quite confidently. It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that Jahanbakhsh broke the deadlock after Al Musallami failed to clear a long ball by Milad Mohammadi. Jahanbakhsh was initially in an offside position when Mohammadi played the ball but challenged Al Musallami from an onside position. It created a bit of controversy amongst commentators as to whether Jahanbakhsh should have been called offside. Regardless though Jahanbakhsh won the duel and slotted the ball into the Omani net.

Iran did not slow down after going up 1-0 and kept Oman’s defence and goal keeper busy. In the 41st minute Iran were awarded a penalty thanks to Al Mukhaini bringing down Taremi in the area. Although Al Mukhaini got a touch on the ball his follow through was deemed a foul. Ashkan Dejagah put the ball into the net to give Iran a 2-0 lead.

The second half saw Iran continue to dominate and create opportunities but Sardar Azmoun was not having a good day and missed quite a few opportunities. Mehdi Taremi was also misfiring. Iran could have had a more comfortable scoreline had they capitalized on the opportunities.

This was a comfortable win for Iran over a young Omani side lacking experience. Oman should be proud of their young team. Iran now head to the quarter final match to face China and if they are looking to win the Asian cup the finishing will be a concern.

Iran-Oman highlights

Preview Iran vs Oman – Asian Cup 2019 Round of 16

Iran face dangerous Oman for a spot in the Quarter Finals

The round of 16 kicks off today for Iran as they face Oman. Oman qualified to the the round of 16 as one of the best third place teams. While that may seem like Oman is a weak team Iran would be mistaken to under estimate the Omanis.

Iran’s first round performance was a mixed bag. Dominating performances against Yemen and Vietnam left the Iranian team assured of a spot in the round of 16. However the last group match was a mixed bag. Against Iraq the Iranian team seemed disorganized and not focused. It may have been due to the numerous changes Carlos Queiroz made to the team but Iranian fans were left less confident of the team. A massive save by Ali Reza Beiranvand saved Iran from potentially losing the match.

Oman was in group F alongside Japan, Oman and Turkmenistan. They lost to Uzbekistan 2-1, to Japan 1-0 and beat Turkmenistan 3-1. Clearly not great results but good enough to get through. Their performance against both Uzbekistan and Japan was very respectable. They had the opportunity to get results out of those two matches but they were missing the luck factor.

The match is bound to be very entertaining. Queiroz’s men need to have a statement match. A match in which they not only win, because losing would mean the end of the road, but to do so quite confidently and comfortably. It is unlikely to be comfortable but the unpredictability of Queiroz’s team means we have to wait and see.

Kick off: 21:00 Abu Dhabi Time / 12:00 Eastern Time / 20:30 Tehran time.

Iran vs. Iraq Match Report – Asian Cup 2019 – Group D

Iran take top spot in Group D

Iran managed to take top spot in Group D after a stalemate against Iraq. The battle of the titans was expected to be the first real test for both teams but it turned out to be a tame affair. While both teams had already qualified to the next round there was first place to play for and that spot may have big implications.

Iraq struggled in the first half as Iran was in control and put Iraq on the back heal. In the 12th minute Sardar Azmoun met a cross with his head but narrowly missed the target. It was the best chance of the half for Iran until the 42nd minute when Alireza Jahanbaksh missed a glorious opportunity from inside the box.

In addition to a number of penalty claims by the Iranian team a foul by Saman Ghoddos highlighted the tense nature of the match. Ghoddos seemed to stomp on the Iraqi player and the experience Uzbek referee pulled out the yellow card. While the Iraqi’s were pushing for a red it did not appear that Ghoddos had malicious intent.

Adjustments at half time paid off for the Iraqi team resulting in a better performance in the second half for the Iraqi’s. The best opportunity of the match for Iraq came in the 77th minute when Alaa Abbas headed the ball towards top corner of the Iranian goal. It looked like a certain goal until Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand interfered to push the ball over. It was a magnificant save by Beiranvand and the highlight of the match.

A scoreless draw may have been the appropriate score for the day but both teams will have to improve if they seek to go far in the tournament. Iran now awaits the conclusion of the group phase to find out which third place team it will face. Iraq is also waiting to find out who will win Group E, Qatar or Saudi Arabia.

Iran has is now assured that it will not face Australia or South Korea until the final match. If Japan were to finish second in group F then Iran would also avoid Japan until the final. This outcome would be an optimal outcome. Regardless of the path to the final Iran will have to improve if they are to win the cup.

Iran – Iraq Group D Match Day 3 – Asian Cup 2019

Iran and Iraq battle for supremacy!

Iran and Iraq play today in a battle of group D giants. Both teams come into the groups final match day with two wins each. Iran currently sit in top spot on goal difference. Iraq can only take top spot with a win. The battle for top spot has many dimensions including perhaps an easier path to the final.

Iran come into the match with Iraq having beaten Yemen 5-0 in their opening came followed by a 2-0 win over a surprisingly good Vietnam. Iraq on the other hand struggled to beat Vietnam in their opening match having to come back from behind twice before a sublime 90th minute strike by Ali Adnan. Iraq beat Yemen 3-0 in their second group match. Iran top the group with 6 points, 7 goals scored and 0 conceded while Iraq have 6 points, 5 scored and 2 conceded.

Asian Cup 2019 - Group D Standings
Asian Cup 2019 – Group D Standings after 2 matches played

Top spot matters to both teams because the winner of the group faces one of the best third place finishers. Depending on how the final group matches end this top spot could mean avoiding Australia, Japan and South Korea until the final match. This clearly is a prize worth fighting for. Not only would they be avoided but if the three favourites fall into the same bracket it could be a bruising journey to the final for them. The second place team from group D will face the first place team from group E, currently held by Qatar but dependent on the final match between Qatar and Saudi.

There is one more thing we can not avoid. The 2015 Asian cup quarter final match that Iran played Iraq is one of those matches that Iranians will not forget. It won’t be forgotten not because of Iraq but because of a man named Ben Williams who happened to be referring the match. A referee whose history had many question marks but who was missing the cardinal rule of refereeing, don’t determine the outcome of the match. Ben Williams issued a red card to an Iranian player for simulation after the player was pushed by the Iraqi keeper. Iran were reduced to ten men while the Iraqi keeper was not even spoken to. Iran’s ten men fought valiantly but could not hold on to the 1-0 lead. With ten on the field they came back twice from being down 2-1 and 3-1 to take the match to penalty kicks. The football gods did not favor Iran and on the day and Iran the favourites were knocked out.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for Iranians. Having last won the Asian cup in 1976 Iranians were optimistic Carlos Queiroz, the Portuguese head coach of Iran, would guide Iran to the cup. It was not to be. Queiroz has done a fantastic job of turning the Iranian national team into the most professional side Iran has had but he is missing silverware. Although he has taken Iran to two consecutive world cups and has earned Iran respect on the international stage he has to make his mark by winning the Asian Cup. Today’s game will not only be to wash away that bitter pill but also to kick the Iranian engine into full speed.

Kick off: 8pm Dubai Time / 11am Eastern / 8am Pacific

Asian Cup 2019 – Iran vs. Iraq Match Day Guide

Asian Cup 2019 : Iran face surprising Vietnam

Group D Match Day 2

On match day two for group D Iran face a surprising Vietnam with a victory assuring a round two spot for Iran. Vietnam on the other hand is fighting for survival after their last minute defeat to Iraq.

On match day one Iran steam rolled over lowly Yemen scoring five unanswered goals. The big question for most experts was whether Iran could avoid the fate of some of the other heavy weights of Asian football. Australia had lost to Jordan in their first match. South Korea had struggled to get past the Philippines. Iran laid all concerns to rest when they professionally saw off Yemen with seventy one percent possession and twenty to three shots on advantage.

Vietnam faced the 2007 Asian champions Iraq in their first match. The scoreline was expected to reflect a similar outcome to the Iran –  Yemen match. Iraq was always seen as the team to challenge Iran for top spot in the group. Vietnam on the other hand had never performed at a high level football tournament. The Vietnamese were committed to earning respect.

Iraq had to come back twice from being behind and a last minute Iraqi free kick sealed the win for Iraq. A hard fought win by Iraq but Vietnamese football came out a winner having earned respect for their valiant effort.

Iran’s English Premier League star, Alireza Jahanbaksh, has also been deemed fit to play giving the team an extra boost. 

It should be a thrilling match leading into match day three. Vietnam has earned respect and Carlos Queiroz expressed that respect in the pre-game press conference. “I had seen Vietnam’s matches in the buildup to the tournament and I thought they were a good side but after watching their performance against Iraq, I have to say they are a very good side,” he said.

Kick off is at 3pm UAE time, 6am EST, 3am PST.