Tehran (Nov. 13) – Having enjoyed a huge boost from their victory over group leaders Korea Republic last month, Iran return to action in the final qualifying round for the 2014 FIFA World Cup on Wednesday brimming with confidence for their home clash against Uzbekistan.
Just a month ago, Team Melli’s quest for a spot in Brazil seemed to be heading for the rocks after a dismal 1-0 loss in Lebanon in September which left them with only one win and one goal from their first three matches in Group A.
But they turned around their fortunes in their match against the Taeguk Warriors as they overcame the dismissals of midfielder Masoud Soleimani Shojaei and coach Carlos Queiroz to win 1-0 with a late goal by captain Javad Nekounam.
With his team now level on seven points with the Korean at the top of the group, Queiroz revealed that there is a positive mood in the camp ahead of the showdown with the Uzbeks at the Azadi Stadium.
“All of the players and staff are very highly motivated to take on the Uzbeks tomorrow. We have a very high fighting spirit and we’ll be eying all three points from this match,” said the Portuguese, who will be suspended from the touchline after he was sent to the stands against the Koreans.
“Unfortunately, according to FIFA rules I will not be allowed to sit on bench due to suspension, but during the game my assistants Antonio Simoes and Omid Namazi will communicate with the players.”
Iran gained a fortunate 1-0 win in their first Group A encounter with the Uzbeks in Tashkent in June thanks to Mohammad Reza Khalatbari’s stoppage-time winner. However, Queiroz insisted that not too much should be read into that match or the result.
“You should not forget that we missed some of our regular players in Tashkent due to injuries and that some of our players joined the national team very late,” he said.
“Our duty is to fully concentrate on the next match and not what happened in the first game against Uzbekistan. We respect the other team, but we will make our best effort to win the match.
“We have analysed our Uzbek opponents very well but beyond that we’re not generally used to playing style of Uzbekistan. They play like the Soviet Union and are physically strong. We should remain concentrated during the whole 90 minutes to get the result we want.
“What we shouldn’t forget is we can repeat what we did in Tashkent, we can guarantee to play with fighting spirit but the final result is in the hands of the Lord,” added the 59-year-old.
In addition to the suspended Shojaei, Iran will also be without playmaker Ali Karimi and midfielder Ahmad Hassanzadeh, who have been ruled out by injuries.
Uzbekistan moved up to third place in a tight Group A with five points after picking up their first win with a 1-0 victory in Qatar last month.
The central Asians could actually leapfrog both the Koreans and Iranians with a win in Tehran although coach Mirdjalal Kasimov knows that it will not be easy to overcome the Iranians in their home stadium.
“This is a game which could specify the ranking from the first team to the fourth, so it’s a special match. We know we have to play Iran in front of 100,000 vocal fans and we are aware it will be difficult, but we have come here to get a good result and to find a suitable spot in the standings,” said Kasimov.
“In football anything may happen. Your team may keep attacking, but fail to break the deadlock and that’s what happened for us in the first match against Iran in Tashkent. The home defeat against Iran doesn’t mean we are weaker than them.
“We have to cope with the fans in the Azadi stadium. The Koreans also played here and in some ways they managed to cope with the atmosphere here.
“We suffered some injuries in our last match but it doesn’t matter, because I think that we still have good player on our bench who can replace them,” he added.
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