AFC – TEHRAN, On a night which produced 74 goals across 16 matches, Asia’s top marksmen found their range on Matchday Three of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Seven players netted hat-tricks on Thursday, as the Continent’s heavyweights, and some rising powers, flexed their muscles in a series of emphatic home wins.
Here, the-AFC.com looks at Iran’s Karim Ansarifard and Sardar Azmoun:
Sardar Azmoun – IR Iran v Cambodia
With goals against the likes of Benfica and Olympique Lyonnais in the weeks prior to the match, it was always going to be a serious challenge for Cambodia to keep Sardar Azmoun quiet, and so it proved as the Zenit Saint Petersburg star posted a hat-trick before half-time in Islamic Republic of Iran’s 14-0 win.
Azmoun stroked home his first to make it 2-0 in the 11th minute, then took further advantage of Cambodia’s porous defence and goalkeeper Keo Soksela’s night to forget, tapping home two more from close range to bring up his 32nd international goal in less than 50 caps.
Still only 24, Azmoun is now fifth on Iran’s all-time scorers’ chart, with Javad Nekounam (39 goals) and Ali Karimi (38) both conceivably within striking distance during this Asian Qualifiers campaign.
Karim Ansarifard – IR Iran v Cambodia
It isn’t often that a hat-trick scorer misses out on player of the match honours, but that was the fate which befell Azmoun as teammate Karim Ansarifard went one better with a four-goal haul against the Cambodians.
It took until the 40th minute for the Al Sailiya forward to open his account from an indirect free-kick inside the penalty area and he never looked back from there, scoring three more goals after the interval to top the scoring in Iran’s biggest win in 19 years.
Appearing for Team Melli for the 80th time, Ansarifard’s hat-trick was his first at international level and came a full decade after he made his senior debut.