Asian Cup Preview: Iran v UAE

Iran will play UAE at Brisbane Stadium on 19 January at 8:00pm AEST in the last match of Group C.


The two teams haven’t played in four years, their last meeting coming at the 2011 Asian Cup where Iran ran out 3-0 winners.

The Game:

While both teams have already qualified for the knockout stage of the tournament they are still fighting for top spot in the group. First position may carry a bit of value as the winner would likely avoid a meeting with tournament favourites Japan. This means the game is far from a dead rubber.

Top spot is not the only thing they are fighting for; the teams have not met in four years and they have changed markedly since then. Iran have grown in stature after a good World Cup showing last year and the UAE have lived up to their tag as the next golden generation of the country. A win for either team could dictate how successful their tournament is.

The two Middle Eastern teams play contrasting styles with some conflict between the two. Iran have surprisingly employed a practical, structured approach in the tournament so far opting for a solid defensive structure with ten men behind the ball. They then rely on the pace and skill of Ashkan Dejagah and Reza Goochannejhad on the break. So far it has worked the way Carlos Queiroz desired with two clean sheets and three goals. Iran are still evolving as a team so they may change their philosophy and go at the UAE - if so it opens up space for the likes of the exciting Emirati attacking players. The key to unlocking Iran’s defence may belong to a certain number ten from the United Arab Emirates.

The UAE set up in a traditional system with a sitting midfielder allowing Omar Abdulrahman, the exciting Emirati attacking midfielder, to float between the lines and provide Ali Mabkhout and Ahmed Khalil with those killer passes behind the defence. The UAE attacking triumvirate face a whole different proposition on Monday night against a team who likes to pack the box with a wall of defenders, inviting pressure upon themselves. Abdulrahman will find it difficult to thread his deadly passes after two games where he has had an abundance of space and free flowing football.

This all adds up to one thing – an electrifying clash between two confident teams who will be doing everything they can for the win.

The Big Issue:

Can UAE break down the solid Iranian defence? The United Arab Emirates have scored with ease so far in the tournament but they will face a new challenge in this round. Iran will definitely threaten the Emirati goal so the game may come down to which team can outscore the other. That places a heavy burden on the shoulders of the Emirati attackers who will be tasked with breaking down Iran’s defence - their success could be the difference between winning and losing.

Game Breaker:

If Omar Abdulrahman is given enough space he will be able to put the quick-witted Emirati attackers in good positions to score. On the other hand, if the Emirati throw everything at Team Melli then they will be extremely vulnerable to the dangerous Iranian counter attack. Don't forget the excellent support the Iranians will have in the stands, that could be the difference in what is a close game between two strong teams.


Iran 1-1 UAE