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All Eyes on Team Melli’s Persian Cheetahs
Art And Culture

All Eyes on Team Melli’s Persian Cheetahs

With the beginning of the AFC Asian Cup 2015 on Friday (January 9) in Australia and just one day ahead of the first match for Iran’s national team against Bahrain, different foreign websites have commented and made predictions on Team Melli in this year’s games.
Straitstime website have named top five contenders and star footballers to look out for at 2015 Asian Cup, the continent’s premier football tournament, featuring the best of Asia. In the list Iran is placed 4th.
World No. 51 on FIFA ranking list, Iran enters the tournament as the top-ranked Asian team, and undefeated in the qualifying stage.
That said, the Iranians, led by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz, should be considered quite a challenge for the competition.
Despite possessing several exciting players like Askhan Dejagah Reza Ghoochannejhad (Gucci), Andranik Teymourian and Captain Javad Nekounam, the team rely more on their defensive solidity, a Queiroz trademark. On their day, Iran will not excite, but can prove difficult to breakdown. They almost held a Lionel Messi-led Argentina to a 0-0 draw at last year’s FIFA World Cup - until Messi scored the winner five minutes into stoppage time.
Iran’s key player according to the website is former Fulham’s attacking midfielder Askhan Dejagah who currently plays for the Qatari club Al-Arabi.

  Top Ten
Naming the top 10 Asian footballers of all time, Espnfc website has mentioned two Iranians in the list. No. 8 in the list has gone to Spanish club Osasuna’s captain Javad Nekounam.
A few Asian players have tried their luck in Spain in recent years but none really made an impact until the “Prince of Persia” landed in La Liga back in 2006. His six years at Osasuna saw him make his mark as a fine midfield player in a league that was possibly the best in the world. He has been immense for Iran as well and as a midfielder has scored 37 international goals. He could pass the 150 international appearance mark in the next few weeks, becoming his country’s most-capped player in the process. Since his first game for Team Melli in 2000, he has played in a total of 145 international games, just 4 games short of the record holder Ali Daei, who is another Iranian in the list too.
Iranian striker Ali Daei, with a record of 149 international caps for the national team and a world record of 109 international goals is on the 5th position in the list. Nobody has scored as many in the international arena as the Iranian legend. Who could forget the four he grabbed in the quarterfinal of the 1996 Asian Cup against South Korea? He Joined Bayern Munich and sat on the bench for the 1999 Champions League final. He has left behind a fine legacy.

  Favorites
Managing editor of Sport360 website Mark Lomas has predicted that the top scorer of the 2015 Asian Cup will be former Charlton’s forward Reza Ghoochannejhad. Better known as Gucci, he has rediscovered his shooting boots playing on loan at Kuwaiti club team Al-Kuwait. Playing for the national team, he has scored 11 goals in 19 games.
With a passionate supporter base behind them, Team Melli has been given a favorable group alongside Bahrain, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.
Iran has won the Asian Cup three times in its history and head into the tournament with recent friendly wins over South Korea and Iraq. All eyes are on Iran to see if they can win their fourth title. Possessing several fine players and having one of its best forms in the recent years, Iran is expected to easily qualify from group stage games and confront its main rivals Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia and the host Australia.
A simple but colorful ceremony inaugurated the games in Melbourne on Friday and was followed by the opening match between Australia and Kuwait from Group A, in which the hosts hammered their rival 4-1.

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