Draw is good for National Team
AFCAC - KUALA LUMPUR, Former Iran international striker Khodadad Azizi feels that National Team can feel reasonably satisfied with the draw that they have been handed for the AFC Asian Cup 2007 finals, having avoided Saudi Arabia during the opening group stage.
The three-time Asian Cup winners could have found themselves placed in Group D with the Saudis after being one of the last two teams drawn out of the pot during Tuesday’s final draw in Kuala Lumpur.
However, it was South Korea that found themselves drawn in that tricky section with the three-time Asian Cup winners, while the Iranians are in Group C with 2004 runners-up China, Uzbekistan and co-hosts Malaysia.
“Of course, we’re glad that we managed to avoid Saudi Arabia in the opening round as they would be very tough opponents,” said Azizi, a former Asian Player of the Year.
“Compared to Groups A and B, I don’t think that we are in an easy group but I think that with the group that we have, Iran have a good chance to qualify for the quarter-finals along with China.”
Azizi expects Team Melli’s clash against the Chinese on July 15, a rematch of the
2004 semi-final which China won on penalties be decisive in deciding top spot in the group.
“China had a good day and we had a bad day in 2004 when they beat us in the semi-finals but it doesn’t mean that they will always have their way with us.
“They would like to win to go into the second round and we want to win to go into the second round. We’ll see what happens when we meet.”
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan Football Federation officialAlisher Nikimbaev
said that he would like to have seen his side avoid China during the group stage.
“I would have preferred for us not to play against China during the early stages of the tournament. They are a difficult side and it would have been better to have met them later on, perhaps in the quarter-finals or the semi-finals,” saidNikimbaev
, the head of the UFF’s national team department.
“I would have preferred for us to have played either Iraq or Bahrain during the group stage because we have something special against both of those teams.
“But the draw is done and sometimes you are lucky and sometimes you are not.”
Having got past the group stage in 2004, the central Asians are now looking to progress further in the 2007 tournament.
“At the last Asian Cup, we reached the quarter-finals, so now our goal is to reach the semi-finals,” Nikimbaev added.
“So really, it doesn’t matter who we are playing in the group stage because we have set our sights high and in the quarter-finals, there will be no weak opponents for us to play.”