Persianfootball.com – DUBAI, When Iran and Iraq will meet in the group D showdown on Wednesday evening, there is a lot at stake for either side, despite both already having certainly qualified from the group stage.
Both sides have collected the maximum points from their first two games, but Iran have a 7-0 goal difference under their belt, while Iraq stand with 5-2. Also the fashion in which Iran hammered Yemen and defeated Vietnam was undoubtedly more souvereign than Iraq’s uninspired 2-0 und late comeback against the same opposition.
And due to these results, Iran stand in first position of the table and only a win would bring the Iraqis into that position, due to the direct duel being the primary tie-breaker in case of equal points.
Prestige, better draw and pay-back
A win in the duel of the neighbouts and this first spot would bring a lot of prestige to the Iraq, but also open the door for a most likely less challenging round of 16 opposition. Additionally, the route to the final appears to be more doable for the group D winner than runner-up – the exact results won’t be clear before Thursday evening though.
And last but not least Iran will have an extra motivation for this game; revenge for the 2015 quarter final exit when a disastrous referee Ben Williams brought Iraq back into the game and a brave Iranian side with only ten men came back from behind twice, just to bow out on penalties.
Despite both coaches playing all of this factors down, they certainly will play a role.
Both starting line-ups appear to be quite unpredictable. While Iraq boss Srecko Katanec announced he might select a B team to rest his key players for the knockout stage, Carlos Queiroz has generally been quite flexible in choosing his players recently.
Not only has he given significant playing time to 7 of 8 defenders in the squad, but also surprised by lining up Mehdi Torabi in the first game and giving veteran playmaker Ashkan Dejagah appear for the full 90 minutes twice
Most likely, the yellow carded players will not be sidelined, which would mean Ramin Rezaeian would return to the defense beside Morteza Pouraliganji and Ehsan Hajsafi. Possible that Majid Hosseini will be given another shot in central defense, but both Pejman Montazeri or Hossein Kanaanizadegan did their jobs very well in his absence.
Omid Ebrahimi and Vahid Amiri should be fixed starters in midfield and also the good Dejagah seems to have picked up pace and to be ready for another start.
Upfront, Azmoun and Taremi are certain starters and Saman Ghoddos is likely to complete the attacking line, which together collected 9 scorer points so far. Alireza Jahanbakhsh might be an option for a late substitute appearance, but most likely will be rested for the next game
Depending on the result of the game, Iran will next play either on Sunday against a third ranked team or on Tuesday against the second placed team of group C – either South Korea or China.
Iran – Iraq
Asian Cup group D, Dubai
Iran’s possible lineup: Beiranvand – Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Hosseini, Hajsafi – Ebrahimi – Dejagah, Amiri – Ghoddos, Taremi – Azmoun