Emedia - IRAN coach Mohamed Mayelikohan is an advocate of attacking football and that, in a nutshell, spells trouble for Malaysia in their opening pre-Olympic Group A match against the Asian Games champions at the MPPJ Stadium tomorrow.
Iran arrived in Kuala Lumpur yesterday afternoon, trained at the MPPJ Stadium several hours later and from the seriousness of their approach, the Olympics are on their mind.
Failure to advance, given their record at the Under-23 level in the last decade or so, would be a huge failure, especially as at least eight of those who featured in their Busan Asian Games gold triumph are in Kuala Lumpur.
In fact, China coach Shen Xiangfu has been reported as saying that he reckons Iran, and not South Korea, who complete Group A, are the favourites to advance to the Olympics, something which they last achieved in 1976.
This seems a little strange, considering that three of Iran’s four Asian Games triumphs have been in 1990, 1998 and two years ago in Busan. Their inaugural triumph was in 1978.
And Iran are desperate to change this and in Mohamed, who formerly handled their national side, they have a coach who believes that attacking football in the only way to play the game.
He has the personnel too as the squad contains a number of players who triumphed in Busan, including the highly-rated Eman Mobali, Hossein Kaebi, a recent target of English Premier League outfit Wolverhampton Wanderers, and skipper Moharram Navidkia.
Moharram, the 2003 Iran Player of the Year, was one of six scorers in Iran’s 9-2 aggregate win over 1994 Asian Games champions Uzbekistan in the second round of the 2004 Asian qualifiers.
Others from the Busan squad in KL are Saied Lotfi, Hamid Azizzadeh, Mohamed Nosrati, Ali Badavi and Javad Kazemeyan.
Javad was one of the scorers in Iran’s 2-1 win over Japan in the final of the Busan Asian Games.
Iran had beaten hosts South Korea on 5-3 penalties in the semi-finals, a result which shattered a nation that had basked in glory just months earlier when the senior side reached the World Cup semi-finals.
Iran have also prepared well for the qualifier as part of their build-up to the qualifier was a friendly against Japan’s under-23 side in Kashima last month.
They held the Japanese to a 1-1 draw and that speaks volumes of their ability and a warning to Malaysia, Korea and China.