AFC – TEHRAN, Marc Wilmots was glowing with pride after seeing his Islamic Republic of Iran side produce a wonderful display of attacking football against Cambodia in their Asian Qualifiers Group C tie on Thursday.
Karim Ansarifard scored four, Sardar Azmoun three, Mehdi Taremi and Mohammad Mohebi two each with Ahmad Noorollahi, Hossein Kanaani and Mehrdad Mohammadi also on the scoresheet as Team Melli took another step towards qualifying for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
It was Iran’s second win in as many matches, having defeated Hong Kong 2-0 last month, but what was extremely satisfying for Wilmots was his team playing attacking football for the whole 90 minutes in front of their appreciative fans, including several thousand women who were watching Team Melli live at the Azadi Stadium for the first time in decades.
“I had said we would play attacking football against Cambodia and I am glad that the team did just that,” said the Belgian.
It took Iran just five minutes to open the scoring and Team Melli, having raced to a 7-0 lead going into the half-time break, would not have been faulted had they taken it easy in the second half.
That was not to be as they continued with their swashbuckling display of football, scoring another seven goals past a beleaguered Cambodia.
The win, said Wilmots, was a confidence booster for the younger players in the squad.
“We’re still in a transitional phase as new players have been added to the team,” said Wilmots, who took over from Carlos Quieroz as head coach following the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The job came with high expectations, with Queiroz having led Iran to successive FIFA World Cup Finals appearances and former attacking midfielder Wilmots agreed that there is still much to do.
“We have an important match with Bahrain (in Riffa on Tuesday) and we need to keep our concentration. We want three points. We haven’t done anything yet.”