Iran look to top Group C

Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei wants to finish first in his group and stay in Malaysia.

Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei has set his sights on a
quarter and semi-final in Kuala Lumpur [AFP]

Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, said the goal for his team was to finish first in Group C to avoid travelling to Jakarta for their quarter-final match.

Iran, who have been based in Kuala Lumpur for their three group matches, would like to stay in the Malay capital for their quarter-final, and semi-final should they progress, but may need to defeat the home side by a big margin in their final group match depending on the result in the other Group C game between China and Uzbekistan.

“We have to endeavor to be the first team in this group, and therefore stay in Malaysia,” Ghalenoei told a press conference on Tuesday.

“As you know, Malaysia lost by a lot of goals in their previous matches, but the result of this match is very important to us and we will take part in the match with all our star players.”

Iran currently sit second on the Group C table, level on points with China but behind by three on goal difference, and although a win or draw will see them through to the next round, a China win over the Uzbeks would mean a possible four or five goal margin required by Iran over Malaysia.

“The Group D matches will be over, and we will know who our opponents are for the quarter-finals,” Ghalenoei said.

“Perhaps Malaysia will adopt defensive tactics, but we have considered different styles and as always, our team will have an attacking style.”

When asked whether he would prefer to face a West Asian team such as Saudi Arabia or Bahrain in the quarter-final, or an East Asain team such as Korea Republic or Indonesia, the coach replied:

“I prefer to stay in Malaysia, first and foremost.

“We have adapted to the conditions and climate here. We have enjoyed the hospitality of the Malaysian people and the work of the officials and security here who have done a very good job.

“The first priority is to stay in Malaysia no matter who our opponent in the quarter-final is.”

Down to the wire

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Javad Nekounam, Iran’s key defensive midfielder, also stressed the importance of not having to move camp to Jakarta for the quarter-final and then back to Kuala Lumpur should Iran progress to the semi-finals.

“Tomorrow is a very important match for us as we need to finish top of this group to stay in Malaysia, so we hope to have a good match tomorrow and get a good result,” Nekounam said.

“Malaysia will be playing to defend their football dignity, but we hope that our players will try their best to ensure a good result for us.”

Malaysia will indeed be looking to finish their disappointing tournament on a high after the resignation of Tengku Abdullah Sultan Ahmad Shah, who quit as deputy president of the Football Association of Malaysia on Sunday after his side’s 5-0 thrashing by Uzbekistan.

The Uzbeks must win against China on Wednesday to secure a spot in the quarters, but even with a victory they will likely finish second behind Iran and find themselves off to Indonesia for their next match.

For China, a draw against the Uzbeks will be enough for them to progress to the next round, but they too will want to top the group with a win.

Source: Al Jazeera


Chris Wang catches up with some local football fans at the Asian Cup in Kuala Lumpur.

13 Jul 2007
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