Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Back On Track

Asia's 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifers
Group A - Round 4 - Day 3

Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran

Iran (0)
Qatar (0)

Seyed Rahmati – Khosro Heydari, Ehsan Haji Safi (46’ Mohamed Reza Khalatabari), Hadi Aghili, Seyed Hosseini – Hossein Mahini (54’ Ashkan Dejagah), Mehrdad Pouladi, Andranik Temourian, Javad Nekounam – Ali Karimi, Karim Ansari Fard (90’ Mazyar Zare)

Qassim Burhan – Mohammed Kasola, Marcone, Ibrahim Majed, Ibrahim Al Ghanem – Adel Lami (46’ Majdi Siddiq), Fabio Cesar (90+3’ Yousef Ahmed), Talal Al Bloushi, Younis Ali – Khalfan Ibrahim, Sebastian Soria

Match Report

Qatar revived their hopes of securing an automatic qualification spot for the 2014 FIFA World Cup with a goalless draw against Iran in Tehran.

Pressure was mounting on Paulo Autuori's men after they suffered a 4-1 home defeat against South Korea four days earlier, and having to play in front of 100,000 fans at Azadi stadium against the west Asian giants Iran, who kicked off this stage with a 1-0 away victory over Uzbekistan, all odds was against Al Annabi.

But with Autuori making a number of changes to the starting-11 who faced Korea, and with the team giving one of their most balanced performances in the recent years, they came back form the lion's den with a golden point that might make the difference at the end of the qualifiers.

The home team's best chance in the first half came in the 30th minute when Javad Nekounam met a long throw in from Ehsan Haji Safi (Asia's Rory Delap) with a powerful shot that hit the bar.

Despite pressure from the home team, Al Annabi went close to taking a surprise lead in the 36th minute, but Seyed Rahmati made a brilliant save to stop Marcone's header.

Iran's coach Carlos Quieroz sent in Ashkan Dejagah in the second half, and the Wolfsburg's winger was a constant threat on the right flank, but the Qatari team's defense was always on top and Burhan ended the game with a clean sheet.

Earlier, South Korea went top of group A with six points after a 3-0 home victory over Lebanon. The East Asians represented Asia in the last seven World Cups and are firm favorites to finish top of this group.

Qatar's key to make their maiden appearance in World Cup Finals will be winning their three home matches against Uzbekistan, Iran, Lebanon. Thirteen points are more than enough to finish in the top three, and may be in top two. They now have more than four months to get ready for their next qualifying match against Uzbekistan, which will take place in Doha on October 16th.

Group A Standings
1South Korea   220071+66
2Iran    211010+14
3Qatar  311024-24
4Uzbekistan    201112-11
5Lebanon  301215-41

Into The Lion's Den

Iran vs. Qatar

Asia's 2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
Group A – Day Three
Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran
18:30 Doha Time

TV: Al Jazeera Sport 1 ( & Al Kass Channel ( ) (Both FTA)

Qatar will look to revive their hopes of securing one of the group's two automatic qualification spots to the 2014 FIFA World Cup Finals in Brazil when they face Iran today in Tehran.

After a disappointing home defeat on Friday at the hands of the South Koreans, a match that saw them conceding four goals at home in an official match for the first time since 35 years, returning from Tehran with at least a point will surely ease the pressure on Paulo Autuori's team.

Iran kicked off the final round of Asia's World Cup qualifiers with a 1-0 away win over Uzbekistan. The three-times Asian champions were lucky to return from Tashkent with the three points as they were under pressure for most of the match, but an injury-time goal from substitute Mohamed Reza Khalatabri and a man of the match performance by goalkeeper Mehdi Rahamti did the job.

"Team Melli" will be favorite to secure the three points today in the 100,000 capacity Azadi stadium in Tehran, one of the most intimidating stadiums in Asia, but you cannot rule out a Qatari surprise.

Back in February, the Iranians were held to a 2-2 draw by Qatar in the same stadium. A historic result that took Al Annabi to this stage of the qualifiers. German-based Ashkan Dejagah scored twice for Iran on his debut, but Mohamed Kasola's late equalizer gave the Qataris their first ever away point against the west Asian giants.

Al Annabi's only victory over the Iranians in seven official meetings was in the 1998 World Cup qualifiers, a 2-0 home win. Legendary striker Mohamed Salem Al Anzi scored both goals.

Autuori need to make some changes in midfield and defense, if he wants to get anything out of this game.

Latest news from the Iranian camp are suggesting that Dejagah is likely to miss the match due to injury. But the home team will not be short of talent specially in attack with the presence of former Asian Player of the year, Ali Karimi. The 33-year old ex-Bayern Munich striker knows the Qatari football well from his times with Qatar SC.

The skilful Mohamed Reza Khalatabari and promising Karim Ansari Fard will also be a threat.

In midfield, the Iranians will rely on the experience of Osasuna's Javad Nekounam and ex-Bolton Wanderers midfielder Andranik Temouryian, both were part of the Iranian squad in the 2006 World Cup Finals.

Another player to watch in the "Team Melli" is the left winger Ehsan Haji Safi. He got the speed and skill, plus a long throw that will remind you of Stoke City's Rory Delap.