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PREVIEW: Iran vs. UAE | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More

06.10.21PREVIEW: Iran vs. UAE | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More

Written by Cyrus Mohadjer
Graphic by Mahdi Javanbakhsh
Edited by Samson Tamijani

Thursday 07/10/21: United Arab Emirates vs. Iran

Location: Dubai, U.A.E. (Zabeel Stadium)

Time Zones:

Tehran – 20:15
Los Angeles – 09:45
New York City – 12:45
London – 17:45
Berlin – 18:45
Dubai – 20:45
Sydney – 03:45 (Friday)

Where To Watch:

USA - Paramount+
UK - OneFootball App or onefootball.com/en/match/2232076
Germany - sporttotal.tv/mafc4cc031
Iran - IRIB 3
Select Countries - youtube.com/AFCAsianCup
*If your country is not broadcasting the match, we will (if available) post a YouTube link on our Twitter @GolBezan, before Kick-Off.

After starting the group stage smoothly last month, Team Melli will be looking to maintain its present momentum against the United Arab Emirates before crossing swords with South Korea, the other giant of the group.

Recap

After a successful summer, Team Melli managed to overcome both Syria and Iraq in what are usually tricky matchups. The Iraq game was particularly convincing, as the team demonstrated some of its greatest offensive sequences, including relentless counter-attacking displays.

Skočić has now increased his record to 9-0-0 since taking over the team in 2020, with only two goals conceded in what has been one of the greatest stretches Team Melli has experienced in years.

The upcoming matches will be key on the road to Qatar, as the next two opponents have not lost in a while either. In the case the team manages to extend its winning streak, we could expect a similar situation to the 2018 World Cup Qualifiers where Team Melli had qualified after only seven matches out of ten.

Team News

Team Melli’s 26-man squad is very similar to the group of players who were called up last month except for a few changes, including the returns of captain Ehsan Hajsafi, and Kaveh Rezaei, who got some starts with OH Leuven (BEL) since coming back from a hamstring injury.

Aref Aghasi, Mohammad Karimi, Zobeir Niknafs and Jafar Salmani are dropped from the previous squad, while Morteza Pouraliganji, Ali Karimi & Aref Gholami continue to miss out due to injuries.

Except for Rezaei, the rest of the offensive line is no surprise with stars Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, along with Ali Gholizadeh, Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Ghayedi and Mehdi Torabi.

One of the biggest omissions from this list continues to be that of Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, who has not made the roster despite being one of the most promising prospects of Iranian football. He’ll expect to instead lead the U23 team coached by Mehdi Mahdavikia in their upcoming AFC Asian Cup Qualifiers scheduled for later this month.

Assuming that Jahanbakhsh, Taremi and Azmoun are locked as starters for the offensive line, we will be eager to see what Skočić will concoct in the midfield. Hajsafi will add to the mix for a potential starting spot, along with Amiri, Ezatolahi, Ghoddos, Gholizadeh, Nourollahi, and even Yasin Salmani, who is the youngest player in the squad.

Another question mark lies in the choice for left-back, as Milad Mohammadi got some playing time with AEK Athens in the last two weeks, while Omid Noorafkan started the last match against Iraq. Hajsafi and Amiri have both also featured on the left side of defence.

Of the three goalkeepers - all playing for Iberian teams - Alireza Beiranvand should most probably continue holding the starting spot, especially after claiming a starting spot for Boavista both in cup and league matches last week.

Projected Starting Line-up (4-3-3)

Beiranvand; Moharrami, Kanaani, Khalilzadeh, Noorafkan; Nourollahi, Ezatolahi, Amiri; Jahanbakhsh, Azmoun, Taremi.

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The Opponent

Bert van Marwijk, former Dutch national team coach, led the United Arab Emirates to a perfect record of four wins out of four matches in the remaining matches of Asian Qualifiers’ second round back in June. Despite facing relatively modest opponents, UAE produced spectacular successes with 15 goals scored during the stint. The start of the third round has been more mixed, with two draws against Lebanon and Syria. The team features local star Ali Ahmed Mabkhout, along with the naturalised Lima leading the offensive line. Meanwhile, Caio Canedo, Walid Abbas and Ali Salmeen are ruled out of the match on Thursday due to injury.

Projected Starting Line-up (4-3-3)

Khaseif; Al-Ahbabi, Abdulrahman, Al Hammadi, Khamis; Ramadan, Hassan, Hamad; Al Hammadi, Mabkhout, Lima.

Prediction

UAE 0 – 2 Iran

These two teams have not faced each other since 2015 where Iran had prevailed 1-0 in AFC Asian Cup group play, with a last-minute goal scored by Reza Ghoochannejhad. Since then, the United Arab Emirates have strengthened their squad and recorded a lot more positive results.

While this contest will surely be a test for Iran, after beating two familiar faces Team Melli should still prevail thanks to leveraging on their consistent form and impregnable defensive fortress.

To listen to our podcast previewing the Iran vs. UAE match, visit: golbezanpodcast.com/golbezan/preview-iran-vs-uae

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Zabeel Stadium, Dubai