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Iran Focuses on Beating Japan in Finals

Fatemeh Etedadi (No. 13) has scored 9 goals in the tournament.Fatemeh Etedadi (No. 13) has scored 9 goals in the tournament.

Iran head coach Shahrzad Mozafar says substance, not style is at the forefront of the team’s push for a second successive title in Saturday’s AFC Women’s Futsal Championship 2018 final against Japan in Bangkok, Thailand.

The defending champion has been all but untouchable in Bangkok, scoring 32 goals in four matches, with a briefly defiant China the only side to issue a serious challenge to its dominance, the AFC reported.

But despite the sheer weight of goals in the campaign, and the style in which the team has scored, Mozafar said getting the job done was her only focus in the final.

“We are thinking only about winning in the final,” said the 48-year-old. “It doesn’t matter how many we score, I’m not thinking about the extent of the result, I’m just thinking about winning, that’s it. The final game is a very special game and we have to be really careful and clever.”

Iran beat Japan 1-0 in the final in the inaugural final in Malaysia three years ago, with tournament Most Valuable Player Fereshteh Karimi scoring the decisive goal and Farzaneh Tavasoli making a number of key saves.

Both players have been outstanding again in Bangkok this year, with able support from the likes of nine-goal top scorer Fatemeh Etedadi and Sara Sirbeigi.

“I was the top goal scorer in Iran leading up to the tournament and I have continued it here,” Etedadi said. “I did a lot of planning for this tournament, and I’ve tried so hard in all the matches. I always try my best for the team and the country rather than because of a desire to score personally.”

  Decisive Win in Semis

They all played a role In Mozafar’s side’s racing to a 4-0 half-time lead in the semifinal win over Vietnam, but the tactician insisted she remained focused on closing the game out rather than resting key players for the next match.

“A semifinal match is so important by itself. We have a day of rest, so I paid no attention to managing players before the final, because this match was so important,” she explained.

“You saw in the second half that Vietnam got back into the contest and played the game. It was not easy and we can’t be deceived by the result just because we won 5-0,” she continued.

While many of her players have been Asian champions before, winning the title would be a first for Mozafar, with Forouzan Soleimani at the helm when Iran lifted the trophy in 2015.

The success of 2015 was a circuit-breaker in terms of recognition for ability of the nation’s female stars, and Etedadi is acutely aware of the impact their achievements have on future generations.

“The last title was really inspiring and now women’s futsal is big and well-known in Iran. Before that there was nothing,” Iran top goalscorer said. “People really showed appreciation the last time when we won. Many girls in Iran are inspired because these girls (the Iran team) are so inspiring.”

On the way to the final clash Iran beat Turkmenistan 14-0 and Uzbekistan 9-2 to reach quarterfinals as the table-topper of the Group D.

In the clash against China in quarterfinals, Iran won 4-2 to reach the semifinal game where it hammered Vietnam 5-0 to pave the way to the final game.

Iran has long been an Asian futsal powerhouse. Men’s national team has dominated the AFC Futsal Championship, winning the competition 12 of the 15 times it has been staged.

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