Asian Cup Preview: Qatar v Iran

Qatar will play Iran at Stadium Australia on 15 January at 8pm AEDT in Round Two of Group C.

Head-to-head: The two teams met in qualifying for last year’s World Cup drawing 0-0 in Qatar and 2-2 in Iran.

The Game: Iran and Qatar had contrasting experiences in their opening games. Iran showed their class in a difficult win which required them to overcome a tough opening period. They showed their ability to score and proved they can overcome their opponents even when not at their best - the qualities of champions.

On the other hand, Qatar had a disastrous game leaving them in a do-or-die clash against the group favourites. They lacked an attacking edge and were equally disappointing on the other side of the field, conceding soft goals which were easily preventable and in some cases solely their fault.

The scene is set for a game between two teams in contrasting positions; Iran is on the rise and will only be better for their opening match, while Qatar are a team in need of transformation.

It is no mystery what Qatar needs to turn around their tournament from probable doom. The solution is simple; a striker needs to chip in and score some goals. Khalfan Ibrahim has shouldered all the burden from midfield and again proved his value after being the only scorer in the loss to UAE. If Qatar is to have any hope of progressing they need a reshuffle at the back and a new source of goals.

Iran will be quietly confident in their matchup with Qatar. It was clear to see in their meeting with Bahrain that Team Melli lacked match practice together but after an unsteady opening half hour they settled into the game and started to look threatening in the final third. Ashkan Dejagah was a constant source of mischief and Reza Goochannejhad should have had a couple goals if it were not for some questionable offside calls. Iran benefited greatly from their opening hit out and if they can pick up where they left off against Bahrain, it is unlikely Qatar will be able to upset them.

The Big Issue: Will Qatar turn things around? We know what to expect from Iran but Qatar are an unpredictable bunch. They looked strong at times against UAE but defensive inconsistency, as well as their toothless attack, let them down. Coach Djamel Belmadi will have to make a few changes to stabilise the team if they hope to get an unlikely result and stay in the group. For Iran it is a case of continuing their building process and Carlos Queirioz will be focusing on another clean sheet and some increased attacking fluency.  

Game Breaker: The game is going to come down to whether Qatar can sturdy up their shaky defensive line. If they perform like they did against the Emirati then the likes of Dejagah and Goochannejhad will tear them apart.

Prediction: Iran 2 – 0 Qatar