AFC – KAUNAS, Islamic Republic of Iran will face their toughest test yet when they play Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals of the FIFA Futsal World Cup Lithuania 2021 at the Kaunas Arena on Monday.
In what promises to be a thrilling encounter, Kazakh fans will be hoping that the quarter-final is decided in normal time, as Team Melli won two penalty shootouts and another match after extra-time at the last Futsal World Cup.
On the other hand, Iran might want to avoid another open encounter like their Round of 16 epic against Uzbekistan, as scoring against Kazakhstan and their formidable goalkeeper Higuita, aided by defensive stalwart Douglas, has proven extremely difficult in Lithuania 2021.
Team Melli opened their campaign with a narrow 3-2 victory over Serbia before seeing off the United States 4-2, with a 2-1 defeat against Argentina being their only blemish as they finished second in Group F behind the South Americans.
In the Round of 16, Uzbekistan found a chink in Iranâ€™s armour going toe to toe with the 12-time Asian Champions in a nail-bitting 9-8 scoreline in the Iranians favour.
Missing from the Iran line-up is Hossein Tayyebi, who featured in the two previous editions but captain Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh has still not lost his deft touch – evident in his cheeky lob over Argentina goalkeeper Lucas Farach.
The Falcons boast the best defensive record of the tournament, having conceded just two goals in four matches.
In Group A, Kazakhstan flexed their muscles in their opener against Costa Rica winning 6-1, and a 3-0 victory against hosts Lithuania followed before being held to 1-1 draw by Venezuela to top their group.
Kazakhstan advanced to the last eight stage in style with a 7-0 win over ASEAN heavyweights Thailand in the Round of 16.
They have the best defensive record among the quarter-finalists and Iran, who have been in fine form upfront, will have to be at their sharpest if they are to make the semi-finals for the second successive FIFA Futsal World Cup.