India star Sunil Chhetri has urged fans in the UAE to turn out in big numbers and support the team in the Asian Cup this month.
The forward, who scored twice in the 4-1 win over Thailand on Sunday, has always been vocal about how the Indian fans motivate him and his teammates to scale greater heights.
However, the pinnacle of Indian football could be achieved in this tournament and the fans could be a vital part of it.
“2018 was really good for Indian football. We had some positive results and qualified for the Asian Cup,” said the 34-year-old.
“It would not have been possible without your support and encouragement. It means a lot to me and the whole team.
“Now we need your support here in the Asian Cup. People who have travelled, people in the UAE who can make it to the game, people who will be watching the game on the television, please support and encourage us.
“We will do everything we can and give our 100 percent on the pitch.”
India will be looking to make it two wins from two when they face the UAE on Thursday.
Iran laid down a marker to claim a record-equaling fourth Asian Cup title with a 5-0 romp against debutants Yemen.
Three goals in 13 first half minutes sent them on their way in Abu Dhabi, with Mehdi Taremi bagging a brace and Ashkan Dejagah making it 3-0. Sardar Azmoun and Saman Ghoddos sealed the win in the second half.
Here we take a closer look at the performance of livewire forward Taremi, who was absolutely dazzling for Team Melli.
Minnows Yemen threatened to cause un upset early on as they took the game to their more illustrious opponents in the opening stages. But once Iran found their feet they moved through the gears effortlessly, with Taremi showing persistence and poise when he was on hand to tap in the opener, before glancing in a fine header to almost seal the points. He then teed up Azmoun to round off a perfect individual night.
Predatory instincts: Playing from the left of four-man attacking midfield, the dynamic Al Gharafa forward was able to drift into the centre and utilise his height and goalscoring knack. As lone front man Azmoun’s snapshot was spilled by the goalkeeper the 26-year-old reacted sharply and was on hand to snaffle up a golden chance and sidefoot his side ahead.
As Iran cut loose thereafter, Taremi sealed the three points with a third Iran goal in 13 minutes, rising sublimely to nod in a perfect Ramin Rezaeian cross into the corner to give the keeper no chance whatsoever.
Ball retention: Hard to criticise a man who enjoyed such an all-round superb display, but if we’re being supremely picky, he could have kept hold of the ball a bit better. When he had it, he was devastating, as his two goals, assist and passing accuracy confirm, but he did lose the ball 12 times.
He made five recoveries having lost possession, so even when he did lose it he must be given credit for tirelessly chasing down opposition players. It feels very wrong to fling any criticism his way though, he had a stellar night.
With players like Taremi in the ranks, it’s easy to see why Iran are such a dangerous opponent going forward. Carlos Queiroz has an abundance of attacking talent at his disposal, so much so that Brighton forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who was topscorer in the Netherlands last season, was left on the bench kicking his heels.
And with Taremi in this sort of form, that’s where he might stay too, because there’s no way he won’t be the first name on the teamsheet for the Vietnam match.
Iran laid down a marker to claim a record-equalling fourth Asian Cup title with a 5-0 romp against debutants Yemen.
Three goals in 13 first-half minutes sent them on their way in Abu Dhabi, with Mehdi Taremi bagging a brace and Ashkan Dejagah making it 3-0. Sardar Azmoun and Saman Ghoddos sealed the win in the second half.
Here we take a look at three of the game’s talking points.
ARE WE LOOKING AT THE CHAMPIONS?
This was by far the best performance in the tournament so far. OK, so we’re only seven games in and a comfortable victory was only secured after minnows Yemen enjoyed an impressive start.
But once Iran found their feet they moved through the gears effortlessly. They of course have pedigree in this tournament, they are three-time winners (joint second most titles along with Saudi Arabia).
They are the highest-ranked Asian team in the FIFA standings and their position at 29th is the highest they have ascended since 2001 and the heyday of Ali Daei.
Their standing is well earned and has been honed during eight years under the tutelage of former Real Madrid and Portugal head coach Carlos Queiroz. Under the 65-year-old they have risen 37 places from 66th and been steadily on the rise in recent years.
Since the 2014 World Cup Queiroz’s Iran have only tasted defeat six times in 54 games, triumphant on 37 occasions. They are battle-hardened and have matchwinners in abundance.
FROM GROUP OF DEATH TO DEVASTATING
This is the Iran we all wanted to see at the World Cup. They will curse the fact they found themselves pitted in the Group of Death alongside powerhouses Spain and Portugal, as well as African heavyweights Morocco, which left a star-studded, exciting team with a near impossible task of making the knockout stages.
They were forced to adopt a more workmanlike, defensive, disruptive approach in order to counteract the threats of Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa and Co, rather than showcase their attacking talent. Their only defeat was a 1-0 reversal at the hands of La Roja.
That attacking threat was abundantly clear in this swashbuckling victory. Livewire forwards Taremi and Azmoun (he of 26 goals in just 42 caps) ran riot, while former Fulham and Wolfsburg winger Dejagah, Mehdi Torabi and Vahid Amiri constantly probed.
They didn’t even have to summon Brighton bombshell Alireza Jahanbakhsh – the 25-year-old winger who laid waste to the Eredevisie last season with a league-leading 21 goals and joint third most assists (12) – from the bench. The opposition may have been tame, but this was far more like it.
YEMEN HOLD HEADS HIGH
At first glance it appears as if Iran’s 5-0 win was a mauling of the minnows. It was, but that does not tell the full story.
Yemen made their Asian Cup debut on Monday yet for an initial 10-minute period at Al Jazira’s Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium, they looked like seasoned veterans, taking the game to more illustrious and established opponents. Had it not been for goalkeeper Saoud Al Sowadi’s foam fingers, Iran might have toiled much longer for an opening goal.
And while Iran eventually showed their undoubted class, Jan Kocian’s Yemen can hold their heads high.
Then North Yemen, they made their bow in world football at the 1965 Pan Arab Games in Egypt. Three years later Iran would embark on a 12-year reign of dominance across Asia as they won the first of three unprecedented straight Asian Cup titles.
The country has far more problems to prioritise than football at the moment. But against one of the favourites, they did not disgrace themselves.