Iran coach Carlos Queiroz and captain Andranik Teymourian have dedicated the team’s progress to the second round of the Asian Cup to their vocal supporters, describing the Team Melli’s fans as like playing with a “12th man”.
Star winger Ashkan Dejagah went one step further after the 1-0 win over Qatar in Sydney on Thursday night, saying “it was fantastic, it was is if I was playing in Tehran.”
After a 17,000-strong crowd in Melbourne for their opening win over Bahrain, that number swelled to 22,672 at ANZ Stadium, with the narrow win booking their progress to the second round. All bar a few were backing the Persian giants.
The group’s earlier match in Canberra, between the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, ended in a 2-1 win for the Emiratis, meaning they too advance and that the clash between the Iran and the UAE in Brisbane on Monday night will determine top spot.
But Iran are sure to have something of a quasi-home ground advantage once again, with the entire expatriate community seemingly on board as Iran seek their first Asian Cup triumph since 1976 – their third consecutive continental title.
“I think we deserved to win the game and I would like personally to dedicate this win to our fantastic, united fans that came here to support the team,” Queiroz said. “This qualification to the second round I would like to dedicate to the special ones in the past month that have been supporting the team and the players. They trust and believe in the players. The game is for them.”
Teymourian said the dressing room was completely overwhelmed by the support they had been receiving from the stands.
“It was a difficult match but we got the three points and we have qualified. We played a good game tonight but we are very thankful to our fans, who have been our 12th player in the last two games,” he said. “I want to thank all the Iranians here in Australia for supporting the team.
“I think we have the second most supporters here in Australia after the Socceroos. It’s an absolute privilege for all the Team Melli players.”
Queiroz said his side had “one, two, three, four, five, six chances … but we didn’t finish them” and they nearly paid the price.
“It was a very difficult game. Both teams were trying to win the game since the first minute,” he said. “There was a moment when it was our time to suffer and play with a fighting spirit, but we were always trying to score again.
“Unfortunately the second goal did not come and that made our life difficult until the last second. But it was a good win and we had the best opportunities in the game.”
Perhaps the more controversial press conference came from Qatar’s coach Djamel Belmadi, when asked about why their star player Khalfan Ibrahim was left out of the team.
“Are you really ready to listen and to understand the reason why?,” Belmadi asked the journalist who put the question to him. “First of all [before the game] nobody asked at this moment why Khalfan is not in. I don’t like to talk too much about my choices. This was – let’s say – more tactical than something else.
“I prefer to talk about the players that played today. They played a great game and it was cruel to take. I believe that if we didn’t concede this goal, so early in the second half, we could have done better because after that goal, we tried to [attack] and we played a little bit in a hurry. When you play like this, you miss your organisation and it’s not the right thing to do, to win a game, especially against a good time like Iran.
“I know I didn’t answer your question. But I just want to talk about the players who played.”
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