Iran, Iraq to compete for top berth in Group D
Iraq's forward Mohanad Ali Kadhim Al Shammari (left) celebrates with a staff member during the match against Vietnam.
Dubai - The two teams last met in the 2015 Asian Cup quarterfinals in Australia
Published: Tue 15 Jan 2019, 9:28 PM
Last updated: Tue 15 Jan 2019, 11:36 PM
Any football clash between Iran and Iraq can set the fans' pulses racing. In their last battle on a football pitch, it was Iraq that won on penalties.
That was in the 2015 Asian Cup quarterfinals in Australia.
Now here at the magnificent Al Maktoum Stadium in Dubai, Iran and Iraq will lock horns after having already qualified for the Round of 16 from Group D.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said his team is focused on playing good football on Wednesday.
"I think both the teams are a bit relaxed because we have already qualified. We did our job, they did their job. We will try to play a good game, good football. This is what really matters," the former Manchester United assistant coach said.
"We have a strong belief in our ability. The players are mentally fresh. We have done well so far. Now we have this game against Iraq. It's a great opportunity for us to play another good game," said Queiroz whose team thrashed Yemen 5-0 before beating Vietnam 2-0 in their second game.
But Queiroz admitted that Iraq is a much better team than Vietnam and Yemen.
"We respect every team and this Iraqi team has some wonderful players. Some of them play their club football in Iran. We know them very well," he said.
"It's a wonderful team. They have a good coach. So we are excited about this game tomorrow. I am sure it's going to be a great game tomorrow (Wednesday) for both the teams and the fans."
Iraq coach Srecko Katanec, on the other hand, said his team will play without any pressure.
"My players are ready. We don't have any injured players," said Katanec whose team clinched a five-goal thriller against Vietnam before beating Yemen 3-0.
"We have seen Iran's previous games. But the game tomorrow is going to be completely different. It's also going to be a bit easier because we are already in the second round, so the players can play without pressure. The players just need to do the things that we talk about in training," he said.