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  • 1/16/2011

Ghotbi glee as Iran survive ‘group of death’

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Coach Afshin Ghotbi was delighted to see Iran qualify for the last eight of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011™ with a game to spare but ominously warned there was still more to come from his talented side.

Despite featuring four changes due to illness, Karim Ansari Fard's second-half goal proved the difference against a resilient DPR Korea team at Qatar Sports Club Stadium as Iran followed up their opening 2-1 victory over Iraq with another win and ensure they will claim one of the two quarter-final spots from Group D.

“The qualification of our team, for me, is a fantastic accomplishment,” said Ghotbi.

“Our group was the “group of death” and I still believe it is the most difficult group in the tournament. To achieve this result two games in a row, I'm very proud of my players.

“Iran is capable of playing much better football. We will show that in the coming games. We will be fitter and more confident and hopefully you'll see much better performances from our team.”

In a contest short on clear-cut chances, Ansari Fard produced a moment of class when he converted Pejman Nouri's cross in the 63rd minute to seal the points, and Ghotbi felt that after a lacklustre opening 45 minutes from his men it was their willingness to take the game to their opponents that ultimately proved the difference.

“We (Iran and DPR Korea) have a completely different vision,” he added.

“We want to attack, we want to create chances, we want to play exciting football and they just want to defend and wait for the right moment to counter. I think the difference was we were better today. Iran has a lot of bright stars like Ansari Fard coming to the international scene.

“Playing North Korea is always difficult, they defend with numbers, they are organised, they are disciplined, they fight, they have pace and they are dangerous on the counter-attack.

“I think we showed patience and were able to pick our moments and the times when we were able to move the ball with the speed that we needed to, we were able to find space and eventually score the goal.

“We didn't start the game the way we wanted. First, our players knew how important the result of this game was. Iranian players are very emotional and sometimes their emotion gets the best of them.

“Second, we didn't stretch them, our wide players didn't do their jobs so well and our right and left-backs were the free players. But they were not involved and they were not creating. We improved on that in the second-half.

“Third was the quality of the North Koreans' defence, they defend very well. They have so many players behind the ball and are so quick at closing down so it takes a good quality of football to open them up.”

Source: the-afc.com

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