The Navhind Times – MARGAO, Iran start their round of 16 campaign in the FIFA U17 World Cup with their feet well set to take the leap into the quarterfinals after the manner they finished their Group C outing at the Nehru stadium in Fatorda last week.
Iran face Mexico and the South Americans need to be wary of the Asians who have proved in their three group matches that they are in India to make records- Being the first Asian country to win the U-17 World cup could be one of them.
Football statistics aid punters and if the statistics of Iran and Mali are kept side by side; one is the story of the fittest and the other of the survival of the fittest. Iran started with intent, brushed aside the notion of European dominance in football and slowly silenced the South Americans from Costa Rica.
Mexico, on the other hand, who was in Group F along with England, Iraq and Chile preferred to chew instead of biting and therefore ended up in the Group of 16 by being one of the best four finishers amongst the teams that came third in their group.
Mexico finished with two points from three games –losing 2-3 to England; holding Iraq 1-1 and sharing points but no goals with Chile in their last match. In short, their story read, three goals scored and four goals conceded. Interestingly, they are yet to start winning.
Iran is starting their match against Mexico as clear favourites because they picture is rosy. Three wins in three matches; ten goals scored and only one conceded. It is the total football displayed by the Iranians that is earning them huge support from fans in Goa and whichever team Iran faces next, one thing is sure, their fans will not let them down because good football always attracts the most fans.
Iran started cautiously and even appeared timid during practice but as their first match against Guinea progressed coloured butterflies began to spread across Fatorda. Except for a lapse in the extra time of the first game the Iranians showed that they had come prepared defensively, offensively and through the midfield to bulldoze through any opponent they have to face.
After Guinea, Iran created the first shock of the tournament humiliating Germany 4-0. That was a good lesson in football to many who believed football is yet to get the feel of the grass in Asia. Iran showed that Asia can make the ball feel comfortable in any type of grass if it is rolled with care.
Iran went berserk against Germany and in the manner coach, Abbas Chamanian played his boys the intent was to score, score and score until the referee blew the final whistle. Abbas showed that attack was the best form of defence and it was a defence that the Germans could not create an answer for.
Iran has been fantastic as a unit and yet within the all has stood out a few who have driven crazy opponents as well as fans, with their twists and turns. AllahayarSayyad was one such player.
Despite the contrast in statistics, Mexico has not proven to be shorn of talent or relatively new to the game. They have played well in the tournament but the World Cup is a stage where one has to play ones best and where playing well becomes secondary.
Like all teams, Mexico must be yearning to leave the World Cup with a win to their name and they could well start doing that with Iran. If that happens, it will be a big upset for all football fans in Goa and of course Asia.