Persianfootball.com – MELBOURNE, Only three more sleeps remain until Team Melli takes on fellow Persian Gulf rival Bahrain at the Rectangular Stadium, in Group C clash of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup. Iran is no stranger to the Australians, as this is the fourth time that Iran national football team has made the trip to Down Under, the first was way back in 1973.
Apart from the disastrous first time Aussie experience, Team Melli finished on a high note in the next two journeys in 1977 and 1997. Also has thus far made a good start in her fourth trip by winning 1-0 over neighbours Iraq in a warm up match in the beautiful NSW coastal town of Wollongong last Sunday.
Iran’s first three visits to Australia have been in World Cup Qualifier against the host nation, the final round of the 1978 World Cup Qualification which was played in a group of five teams, while the other two visits were playoffs for the 1974 and 1998 World Cups. In 1973 in Sydney, the injury-hit Iran squad lost 3-0 to the host and could only manage a 2-0 win in the return-leg in Tehran which was not enough to progress further. However, in 1977 in Melbourne, this time around it was Team Melli who was truimphant winning 1-0 to the disappointment of the Aussie fans, Hassan Rowshan was Iran’s first goal scorer in Down Under.
As for the third trip in 1997 again in Melbourne, it was a battle of David versus Goliath, an all Iranian-League based squad powered by the magnificent Bundesliga-triangle Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi and Karim Bagheri faced a strong Australia who had a total of 17 European-based players. Team Melli managed to shock the world by scoring two late goals to tie the match and knock out the Socceroos on the away-goal rule and became the last team qualified for France 1998. Even today, still many Aussie journos refer to Iran as “nemesis” and are unable to put the nightmare of November 1997 behind them.
The fourth trip has started with a joy so far as new sensation Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun scored the winner against Iraq in the friendly match in the Steel City of Wollongong. It was two out of two for the 19 year old youngster who was also Iran’s scorer in the November 2014 friendly versus Korea Republic in Tehran.
As Team Melli manager, Carlos Queiroz pointed out in a recent interview with Australia’s SBS Network, his team is currently the highest ranked AFC member but has arrived Down Under as the least prepared team and will only play with heart and soul to achieve the goals. Well Iran also played with heart and soul in the previous three trips to Australia and twice was the victor, in 1977 and 1997 respectively.
Moreover, outside Football it can be proudly said that the sun-baked country has been a blessing for Iran where some of the best Iranian sporting moments and achivements were set and made. In 1956 Melbourne Summer Olympic Games, Iran’s first ever Olympic Gold Medal was won by the wrestler Emam-Ali Habibi and the 14th place in the overall medal tally of those games still remains as Iran’s best finish in the Olympic Games. The two gold medals won in 1956 was still Iran’s highest ever gold count in Olympic Games competition, however this record was bettered in nowhere else but Down Under, this time in Sydney at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games where three Gold Medals and Iran’s first time Olympic Taekwondo medal were won. Also weightlifter Hossein Rezazadeh made a world record by lifting a total of 472.5 kg in Clean and Jerk at the 105Kg+ event.
Not fully prepared, internationally sanctioned and isolated, nothing will stop the Princes of Persia in trying to awaken from the 39 year sleep when Iran last won the Asia Cup. Their predecessors, the Persian Immortals of 1968-1979 were unstoppable who qualified for 1972, 1976, 1980 Olympic Games and 1978 World Cup undefeated and won the Asia Cup three in a row 1968, 1972 and 1976 by winning every game, an impressive achievement that not even four time Asia Cup Champions Japan has been able to do.
In addition to playing with heart and soul, the passionate fans, the key to achieving the goal of winning the Asia Cup for the fourth time will be calmness, unity, being fully focused, not underestimating the opponents and treating every game as if it is the final. As with previous times, one can only hope for the blessing of Down Under. Let the dream come true.
Historical matches in Down Under:
Date: 18/08/1973 – Location: Sports Ground – Sydney.
Referee: Rudolf Scheurer (Switzerland) – Attendance: 31,000.
World Cup Qualification Playoff – Australia vs Iran 3:0(1:0).
Goals: Adrian Alston 42′, Attila Abonyi 46′,Peter Wilson 85′.
Iran: Nasser Hejazi – Ebrahim Ashtiani, Mehdi Lavasani, Jafar Kashani, Akbar Kargarjam – Mehdi Monajati, Javad Ghorab, Parviz Ghelichkhani(c), Esmail Haj-Rahimipour ( Safar Iranpak 26′ (Mohammad Sadeghi 46′) ) – Mohammad Reza Adelkhani, Gholam Hossein Mazloomi.
Head Coach: Mahmoud Bayati (Iran).
Date: 14/08/1977 – Location: Olympic Park – Melbourne.
Referee: Franz Wohrer (Austria) – Attendance: 40,000.
World Cup Qualification – Australia vs Iran 0:1(0:0).
Goal: Hassan Rowshan 70′.
Iran: Nasser Hejazi – Hassan Nazari, Hassan Nayebagha, Andranik Eskandarian, Hossein Kazerani – Nasrollah Abdollahi, Mohammad Sadeghi, Ali Parvin(c), Ebrahim Ghasempour (Habib Khabiri 80′) – Hassan Rowshan, Ghafour Jahani.
Head Coach: Heshmat Mohajerani (Iran).
Date: 29/11/1997 – Location: Melbourne Cricket Ground – Melbourne.
Referee: Sandor Puhl (Hungary) – Attendance: 90,000.
World Cup Qualification Playoff – Australia vs Iran 2:2(1:0).
Goals: Harry Kewell 32′, Aurelio Vidmar 48′ – Karim Bagheri 71′, Khodadad Azizi 77′.
Iran: Ahmad Reza Abdezadeh(c) – Mohammad Khakpour, Naim Saadavi (Ebrahim Tohami 70′ (Ali Akbar Ostadasadi 84′) ), Afshin Peyrovani, Mehdi Pashazadeh – Mehi Mahdavikia, Reza Shahroudi (Alireza Mansourian 52′), Karim Bagheri, Hamid Reza Estili – Khodadad Azizi, Ali Daei.
Head Coach: Badu Viera (Brazil).
Date: 04/01/2015 – Location: WIN Stadium – Wollongong.
International Friendly – Iraq vs Iran 0:1(0:0).
Goal: Sardar Azmoun 55′.
Iran: Alireza Beiranvand (Mohsen Forouzan 60′) – Ramin Rezaeian, Hashem Beikzadeh, Morteza Pouraliganji, Mehrdad Pouladi – Omid Ebrahimi (Javad Nekounam 82′) – Vouria Ghafouri ( Alireza Jahanbakhsh 68′ ), Soroush Rafiei (Andranik Teymourian 68′), Karim Ansarifard(c) (Ashkan Dejagah 78′), Vahid Amiri – Sardar Azmoun (Reza Ghoochannejhad 74′)
Head Coach: Carlos Queiroz (Portugal).