Natasha Raheel – Express Tribune
LAHORE: Iran qualified for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U16 final round with a comprehensive 3-0 win against the UAE at the Punjab Stadium in Lahore yesterday.
Iran’s captain Nima Mokhtari Dehabneh scored the opening goal in the 31st minute, while Reza Shekari doubled the lead in the 45th.
Iran continued to dominate the match in the second half as well, sealing the victory in the 49th minute with the third goal.
With the win, Iran booked their place in the final round of the AFC U16 Championship from Group E that will be played in Thailand. Iran were also the semi-finalists of the event from last year.
Coach Mostafa Ghanbarpour said that the team’s win is a result of hard work and ‘sensible play’.
“My team played well, we played rationally, wisely and sensibly instead of taking the competition emotionally,” Ghanbarpour told the press conference after the match.
“We will go back home proudly now. Our performance and especially the qualification to the final round is a result of setting a target and following it with discipline. Resources are important but it is about setting a goal and achieving it with good behaviour and discipline in the team.”
The UAE coach Badir Ahmed Abdalla Saleh was full of praise for Iran. However, he was not happy with the refereeing in the match.
“I congratulate Iran for their performance,” he said. “But I feel that the referee in the match didn’t know how to handle the children. I’m not saying that we lost because of him but yes, he showed too many yellow cards to us.”
Iran qualified with nine points, winning all of their three matches, while the UAE finished the event in second position with six points.
UAE, Iran praised Pakistan football team
In the second match of the day, Pakistan and Sri Lanka also played out a goalless draw.
Both Ghanbarpour and Saleh said in their interviews that they see Pakistan improving and if the players and the federation continue the work, they will be among the top teams in the region.
“I thank the Pakistan Football Federation (PFF) for holding a remarkable, awesome event,” said Ghanbarpour. “Everything was excellent — the security, facilities and the matches were good. I see the Pakistan
team becoming one of the toughest sides in the region in the coming years.”
Published in The Express Tribune, September 30th, 2013.