Abu Dhabi: China have their task cut when they take on two-time champions Iran in the AFC Asian Cup quarter-final at the Mohammad Bin Zayed Stadium on Thursday. The action starts at 8pm.
The Red Dragons made it to the quarters following their 2-1 comeback victory over Thailand in the Round of 16 but they are well aware this will be a completely different ball game altogether.
“Iran obviously are one of the top teams in Asia, they played well at the Fifa World Cup last year and here too, physically very strong, organised and have very good quality,” said China coach Marcello Lippi on the eve of the encounter.
“From what we know of Iran, we know there is no room for mistakes for they will punish you every chance they get.
“They are technically and tactically very sound and very good in playing long balls. We must be focused against them,” said Lippi, whose team have lost four and won two in their previous six meeting against Iran. The last meeting between both teams was in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup, which Iran won 1-0.
However, Lippi is optimistic that his side wouldn’t spare anything to get across the line. “Iran may be ranked higher than us and I would say they are the favourites but nothing is impossible in football.
“We have been working hard correcting our mistakes and I am confident my players are ready for what will definitely be a very hard match, but one which I think we can do well. We have been improving and will go into the match against Iran confident,” asserted Lippi.
Iran have also been on a roll in this tournament so far and have remained unbeaten without conceding a goal. They entered the quarters with a 2-0 convincing win over Gulf Cup Champions Oman.
“No two games in football are ever the same, in football it is always a different story. The game versus China is a new game, a new adventure, and one in which we can try to do our absolute best,” said Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, who insisted that it will be imperative for his side to remember all the lessons they have learned in the victories.
“This is just like a Cup final as they are games, which do not have a history, they do not have a past. You cannot lose a game because of history or statistics. This type of cup match is very different to those we faced in the group stage and I believe the experience my players have will count for something in the game.”