Tehran Times - Iran are confident of defending their AFC Futsal Asian Cup title when they go up against perennial rivals Japan in the final on Saturday.
It will be the eighth meeting between the two teams in the final, and a repeat of the 2018 edition where Iran emerged 4-0 winners.
The rematch will also be a reunion between Iran head coach Vahid Shamsaei and his Japan counterpart Kenichiro Kogure, as both were foes as players.
While Shamsaei expressed his utmost respect for a Japan team that Kogure has coached since 2018, the former Iran international expects his side to maintain the fine form that has seen them power into the final with five convincing wins.
“I have experience with Kogure as a player, playing against one another, but today we have roles as coaches,” Shamsaei told the-afc.com.
“Japan are really strong, and we will try to stick to our strategy. We will try to analyze them as best as we can, and control moments in the game. We are aware that Japan are very well prepared and are very disciplined in the game.”
“It’s difficult to anticipate if the match will finish in 40 minutes, or extra-time or penalties. But from the first minute, we will have high concentration and start tough against them.
“It’s an important game for us, we know our opponents are very strong with the best players and a good coach, but we believe in our players and we are here surely to be champions. We will put in all our efforts to the very last minute. From now on, it’s out of my hands.”
Kogure, meanwhile, is fully aware of how dangerous Iran are in front of goal, having scored 37 goals in five matches, but the 42-year-old tactician welcomed the challenge and said his players are brimming with confidence after displaying improved performances with every passing match.
“We are happy to be here and I’m proud of our players,” said Kogure. “Personally, I have known Shamsaei for 20 years as a friend and player. I’m happy to play against him and a strong team.
“They are always our rivals but we will have good preparation for the final, and our players are confident. We will try our best to beat Iran and be champions.”
“This final match will be a completely different match from the semi-final or our other previous matches. Naturally, it will be a nervous game, and our plan will be to work hard in defense and shut down Iran’s fabulous attack, and control the game as much as we can. I expect our talented players to spread their wings to play their best match ever.
“We don’t have any specific strategies to shut down Iran's attacks, but the good news is that we don’t have a Vahid Shamsaei on the court tomorrow!”