AFC – DOHA, Iraq, and the Islamic Republic of Iran are looking to continue their unbeaten start to the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar Group A when they lock horns in Doha on Tuesday.
On head coach Dick Advocaatâ€™s competitive debut at the helm, Iraq held the Korea Republic to a goalless draw in Seoul with the Dutchman content with ceding possession and looking to hit on the counter.
Meanwhile, their neighbors IR Iran produced the only win of the group on the opening day when captain Alireza Jahanbakhshâ€™s deflected shot settled in the Syriansâ€™ net, with Team Melli going into Matchday Two leading Group A with three points, two ahead of the four sides that drew in the previous round of matches.
The two teams have a lot of history between them, that being most recently the doubleheader in the previous round of the Asian Qualifiers: The Lions of Mesopotamia recorded a 2-1 home win, with the return leg settled by Sardar Azmoun at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Azmoun will be welcomed back into the fold, having missed out on his sideâ€™s opening match through suspension, while head coach Dragan SkoÄŤiÄ‡ continues his recovery from COVID-19, having left assistant Marijo Tot to lead the team in the previous game.
â€śWe saw how Japan was defeated at home by Oman and the Korea Republic and Iraq drew in Seoul,â€ť said Tot.
â€śThis shows that the teams are close and winning requires hard work. All of our players did well against Syria, and I would also like to thank all our technical and support staff at the national team.â€ť
Iraqâ€™s Advocaat vowed to take a different approach against IR Iran, after being content with defending for large swathes of their previous game and only bringing on offensive support in the form of Justin Meram and Mohanad Ali later in the game.
â€śWe played really well defensively in the last game,â€ť said Advocaat
â€śWe will play a lot more offensively in the next game, which will be an extremely important one for us. We only started preparing for the games two weeks ago and half of our squad consists of new players.â€ť
Tuesdayâ€™s fixture will be the sixth between the two sides in FIFA World Cup Qualifiers, with IR Iran having won three to Iraqâ€™s two.
It will also be the second time they face off in Doha in the Qualifiers, with the late Ahmed Radhi and Alaa Kadhim having led Iraq to a 2-1 win in the Road to USA 1994.