ESPN – TEHRAN, Asia’s five teams are all home from Russia, but January’s 2019 Asian Cup already looms large on the horizon.
Here’s a look at lessons all Iran learned from the 2018 World Cup and what needs to be done in the coming weeks and months.
With Carlos Queiroz in charge, Iran will be the team to beat in the U.A.E. This is a team that pushed Portugal and Spain all the way in Russia. Four points are often enough at the World Cup, but unfortunately not for Iran in Russia.
Sardar Azmoun presents a problem heading into the tournament. The 23-year-old is one of the top strikers in Asia, but after Russia, Azmoun announced his retirement from the national team because the abuse he received on social media affected the health of his mother. All sensible Iran fans will hope the decision is reversed.
Team Melli’s defensive-minded style might have (almost) worked at the World Cup, but that needs to change a little in Asia when Iraq, Vietnam and Yemen are not going to dominate Iran to the same extent. Fortunately, Queiroz’s team showed in qualification that defeating Asian teams is not a major hurdle for them. At the moment, with Queiroz in place and the tournament taking place next door, Iran are surely favourites.