Morale Booster for Iran

It was a needed win for the Iranians as it served as a booster of their confidence and they will look to continue their momentum as they take on Morocco, Spain and Portugal on June 15, 20 and 25 respectively in their group B matches
 Karim Ansarifard  Karim Ansarifard

The national football team lifted its spirits by winning its last friendly match against Lithuania 1-0 in of Moscow on Friday.

Karim Ansarifard scored the winning goal to be the golden substitute of Carlos Queiroz’s roster in Russia, the AFC reported.

Ansarifard helped Team Melli secure victory over Lithuania in its pre-2018 FIFA World Cup Russia friendly. The match was held without spectators as requested by Queiroz.

Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh led Iran’s attack but a goal eluded them as the game went into the break 0-0 in the first half.

Having had to endure two cancelled friendlies with Greece and Kosovo, the match with Lithuania was Team Melli’s final preparation before starting their Russia 2018 campaign.

In the 80th minute, Ansarifard came off the bench, replacing Taremi, and just eight minutes later, the 28-year-old got the net. Taremi left the pitch due to injury.

It was a needed win for the Iranians as it served as a booster of their confidence and they will look to continue their momentum as they take on Morocco in their opening match in Group B on June 15, before meeting Spain and Portugal on June 20 and 25 respectively.

  Quieroz’s Satisfaction

Queiroz expressed satisfaction with the team’s training tour in the home of Russian Premier League champion FC Lokomotiv Moscow before lining up against Lithuania.

“In 2014, I chose the Sports Club Corinthians Paulista, which later became the champion of Brazil, and this year the Moscow-based FC Lokomotiv campus was provided to the Iranian team, and they went on to win the title of the Russian Premier League (in May).”

A daunting task for many but Queiroz remains optimistic of his team’s chances as Iran gets ready for its fifth appearance in the FIFA World Cup.

“We are very happy and proud at this moment,” declared Queiroz. “Any problem we have is definitely less than the problems of other teams that have not made it to the World Cup, and we love being in the World Cup.”

The general secretary of Iran’s Football Federation, Mohammad Reza Saket, also expressed satisfaction with Russia’s organizing and hosting capabilities.

“The conditions are ideal,” said Saket. “All the facilities are available to the team to continue its work smoothly.”

  Reality of Group B

Iran may be in one of the toughest groups in the World Cup Russia but that is not going to stop Queiroz and his players from shifting their goals.

Iran has not advanced past the group stage in their four previous appearances and that is what they are looking to better in Russia.

Team Melli lost its position as the top ranked Asian team on Thursday (to Australia) but it is a position Iran can reclaim by performing well in the FIFA World Cup.

“This is the reality that Group B is the hardest group in the 2018 FIFA World Cup. However, we cannot change our goals or let our supporters down,” said Queiroz, who is leading Iran to its second successive World Cup.

Group B is indeed tough as Iran has 2010 World Cup champion Spain, reigning European champions Portugal and Morocco for company.

It is, however, a challenge that the three-time AFC Asian Cup winner is looking forward to compared to four years ago, Queiroz has a younger squad for the 2018 campaign.

“In the last World Cup, we had players who had more experience of playing together before going to Brazil. This time, we have younger players who are determined to show that Iran can play against the best,” said Esteghlal defender Pejman Montazeri, who at 34 is one of the oldest players in the team.

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