May 29, 2024
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Tehran Times – TEHRAN, The 2024 AFC Futsal Asian Cup is set to kick off in Thailand on Wednesday, with the Iran national futsal team, led by head coach Vahid Shamsaei, are in Group D alongside Afghanistan, Kuwait, and Bahrain.

With 12 titles, Iran is the most honored team in Asia, whereas Japan hold the second position with four championships.

In the latest FIFA Futsal World Rankings, Iran ranked sixth with 1597 points, surpassing Kazakhstan. Afghanistan, Bahrain, and Kuwait, Iran’s rivals in the group stage of the Asian Cup, are ranked 49th, 75th, and 44th, respectively.

Iran face tough competition in the group stage. Afghanistan, Iran’s first opponent, have qualified for the Asian Cup for the first time and have shown significant progress since Iranian coach Majid Mortazavi took over the team. Some of Afghanistan’s national team players compete in Iran’s Futsal Super League and are familiar with the Iranian players, making them difficult opponents for Shamsaei’s side.

If Iran top the group stage, they will face the second-placed team from Group C, which includes Japan, Tajikistan, South Korea, and Kyrgyzstan, in the quarterfinals.

A notable difficulty for the Iranian futsal team ahead of the 2024 Asian Cup has been the inclusion of foreign-based players and their availability.

Four foreign-based stars, namely Hossein Tayyebi (AE Palma), Saeid Ahmadabbasi (Vina Albali Valdepenas), Moslem Oladghobad (AE Palma), and Salar Aghapour (AE Palma), are the top choices of Vahid Shamsaei.

Nonetheless, there has been considerable discourse recently about whether they are present or not. While Aghapour and Ahmadabbasi can freely participate in the Asian Cup, the same cannot be said for the other two.

The previous tournament’s top scorer, Tayyebi, who plays for AE Palma, had to skip the Asian Cup after injuring his quadriceps muscle in a game against Barcelona. His absence poses a major challenge for Shamsaei to find his replacement.

Moslem Oladghobad, the futsal player of the year, who also plays for Palma in Spain, is another injured star of Team Melli, and his presence or absence in the Asian Cup is uncertain.

In the previous tournament, Iran secured the runners-up position with a 3-2 loss to Japan. This time around, the objective is to regain the championship title, which adds to the challenge for Shamsaei and his men.