Tasnim – DOHA, Omid Noorafkan believes desire can help Iran achieves its dream at the AFC U-23 Championship Thailand 2020 as the Iranian team prepares to return to the tournament for the first time since 2016.
The midfielder skippered the Central Asian team as it advanced from a qualifying group that featured Iraq, Turkmenistan and Yemen after finishing as one of the best-placed runners up in March to book its ticket to the Continental competition, which also acts as the Olympic Games qualifiers.
“Our target is to qualify for the Olympics because we know this is a huge opportunity in our lives,” Noorafkan told the-afc.com.
“To make a big step such as reaching the Olympics you have to first think about the short steps, which for us is the opening match [at the AFC U-23 Championship] against Uzbekistan.
“At tournaments, the first game is always so important, so I have already spoken with my teammates about it and we are already looking forward to it. We are a big team with a big heart and a great dream. We will do our best to become heroes,” he added.
In addition to the defending champion Uzbekistan, Iran has been drawn in a tough group alongside Korea Republic and China PR.
Iran has continually been among the top teams in Asia at senior level in recent years, although it has failed to scale the same heights at age group levels, with the quarter-finals appearance in 2016 its best performance to date.
But Noorafkan remains confident that when Thailand 2020 comes around in a little under three weeks’ time, his side will be ready to challenge the Continent’s best and fight for the title.
“Iran has always had good players, good staff and good coaches for their U-23 teams, but the most important things are discipline and organization,” noted Noorafkan.
“I’m sure this current team has that and we’re going to Thailand to try and win all our games.
“Uzbekistan, Korea Republic and China are all good teams. Uzbekistan are very strong on the counter-attack and play with good wingers, while we expect Korea Republic and China to play a fast game. But they also know all about Iran,” the Sepahan midfielder stated.
“This is the target of all the players and we think about these steps, but the first mission is the AFC U-23 Championship and the Olympics. We have a good team and are very confident for this tournament. We are ready for Thailand,” Noorafkan concluded.