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 Behnam Yakhchali
 Behnam Yakhchali

National Team Targets Payback Against Iraq

What makes the second meeting with the Iraqis different is the fact that Iran will be playing at home, and Yakhchali believes it will be a critical factor in their performance as the fans’ support can help boost their morale

National Team Targets Payback Against Iraq

National basketball team player Behnam Yakhchali was not around when Iran lost to Iraq in the first window of the Asian Qualifiers for FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019. But he is just as pumped to get some payback.
Yakhchali remembers watching that game from home, unable to play as he was sidelined by an injury. “In the first window, I got hurt before the team traveled to Jordan,” he said. “But hopefully, in this window, I’ll play for the national team and help in every way I can.”
According to FIBA website, the 1.91m combo wingman certainly would have been able to help Iran in the first window, especially after he averaged 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 three-pointers per game in the FIBA Asia Cup 2017.
“In the first game, we didn’t play very well. We weren’t mentally prepared,” he explained.
Iran will face Kazakhstan on the road first, but the entire team has the Iraq game circled in their calendars. “Obviously we play Iraq and we have been waiting for this game to get our revenge,” he said. “About Kazakhstan, we haven’t been able to watch their games, but we have to be prepared because it’s not going to be easy for us to beat them on their home court.”
What makes the second meeting with the Iraqis different is the fact that Iran will be playing at home, and Yakhchali believes it will be a critical factor in their performance. He feels fortunate to be part of the new format of the FIBA Basketball World Cup Qualifiers, where home fans get to see their national squads in action.
“It’s a great honor to play for the Iranian national team,” he exclaimed. “Our previous generation didn’t get a chance to represent the country at home, so it’s great to be able to do that and take full advantage of it. Also, it’s good for the fans to be able to support their national team.”
Iran will travel to Kazakhstan on February 22 to try and tarnish the Steppe Wolves’ unblemished slate before hosting Iraq three days later.

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