|Andranik Teymourian, centre, is one of the
driving forces in the Iran midfield [Al Jazeera]
The morning after they qualified for the final eight of the 2007 AFC Asian Cup, the Iran national team were back out working on the training pitch at Malaysian Football’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
It was a light run for those who had taken part in the previous night’s 2-0 victory over Malaysia, if you can call six laps around the oval in 32 degree Celsius heat and 74 per cent humidity ‘light’, while the reserve players were put through their paces with some sprint work and a six-on-six match.
After giving a brief team talk ahead of the session, Amir Ghalenoei, Iran coach, participated in the training run with his players as they contemplate a crunch quarter-final meeting with Korea Republic at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium on Sunday.
The two teams have met at the same stage of the tournament for the past three editions, with Iran winning 6-2 in 1996, Korea triumphant 2-1 in 2000 and Iran victorious again at China 2004.
In that famous quarter-final three years ago in Jinan, Shandong province, Iran won an exciting match 4-3 with midfielder Ali Karimi scoring a hat-trick as the sides exchanged goals until the West Asians finally prevailed.
Karimi has been a little off the pace so far in this year’s tournament, with Javad Nekounam and Andranik Teymourian, the two engines in the Iran midfield, driving the team forward this time around.
|Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei shows his players
how it’s done at team training [Al Jazeera]
Teymourian, who impressed with English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers last season, scored his side’s second goal against Malaysia on Wednesday night and was enjoying his first Asian Cup foray.
“We’ve had some good matches, but the first match was the toughest for us,” Teymourian told Al Jazeera.
“Playing in this climate and weather conditions is very hard for us, but we hope in the second stage we will improve.
“We’ve had a lot of chances, but didn’t take those chances.”
The 24-year-old is the only Christian in the Iran team, but as with most differences off the field in sport, it has not affected him gelling with Team Melli in the slightest.
“In my opinion, I have had some good performances,” Teymourian said of his tournament so far.
“I dedicate myself to the team and only think about success for the team.”
Iran advanced to the second round with a 2-1 win over Uzbekistan, a 2-2 draw with China and a 2-0 victory over joint-hosts Malaysia to top Group C and remain in Kuala Lumpur for their match against Korea.
“They were very strong teams, but I think the climate affected all teams seeing as some of them are not used to playing in these conditions,” Teymourian explained.
Premier League experience
|Ali Karimi, Teymourian, Mehdi Mahdavikia, and
Rahman Rezaei sweat it out [Al Jazeera]
The defensive midfielder made 17 league appearances for Bolton in the 2006/07 season, scoring two goals on the way to helping the Wanderers into the Uefa Cup for their second time in three seasons.
“The Premier League in England is the strongest and highest level in the world,” Teymourian said.
The Tehran-born player broke into the national squad in 2005, and has now established himself as a regular fixture in the starting line-up and is definitely one for the future as Team Melli looks ahead to World Cup 2010 qualification.
“It is honourable for a player to play in the national team,” said Teymourian.
“I’m just so pleased that at 24 years of age I’ve already played for Iran at a World Cup, in 2006.”
With Iran’s fourth quarter-final meeting with Korea in the past four Asian Cups coming up on Sunday, Teymourian will be trying to control the midfield and chime in with some long-range shots in his side’s toughest assignment yet.
Iran haven’t won an Asian Cup title since 1976, but with Teymourian and the rest of the team improving with every match, they are in a great position to break their 30-year drought.