China 2008 qualifiers - Australia under 23 in their first Olympics 2008 qualifying match on February 28th. Australia’s strong showing in world cup 2006 I had expected to see a powerful Olympic side from the socceroos but despite their physical strength and height advantage the Australians failed to impress; the socceroos though will be pleased with their away point earned in Tehran.
Iran are in the toughest qualifying group alongside Australia, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, winning the home ties is therefore crucial for Iran so this was a bad start for Iran’s Olympic side. In the other match of Group D Saudi Arabia beat Jordan 1-0 to go top of the group, the top two teams from each group will qualify for the next round qualifiers (3rd and final round).
Iran football is going through some turmoil at the moment, the fans are disheartened by ongoing poor performances by Iran’s senior football side ‘Team Melli’, Iran’s under 23 side failed to impress in the Asian Games last December, the recent disqualification of Esteghlal FC from the Asian Champions League thanks to poor management was another blow to Iran football. It was therefore little surprise that fewer than 2,000 fans turned up to watch Iran play Australia in Tehran’s 100,000 capacity Azadi Stadium! An empty stadium totally wiped out Iran’s home advantage as the atmosphere in the stadium was hardly intimidating for the Australians; Iran can expect no mercy from Australia and their fans in the return leg.
The new head coach of Iran under 23 side Vinko Begovic has only been in charge of the team for a few weeks, he took over from the Brazilian Rene Simoez who parted company with Iran after December’s Asian Games. Based on Iran’s performance against Australia I must say Begovic has probably done as good a job as anyone could in such a short time, Iran dominated this match and overpowered Australia but they were unable to capitalise on the opportunities they created and that is a worry. Iran should have won this match by two or three goals, they played a well organised game and passed the ball well, but in football unless you score you are not going to win.
For me the 21 year old Hussein Kaebi who captained the side was Iran’s best player and gave the socceroos a lot of problems upfront, Mehrdad Oladi has to start passing the ball more, Makani did well in goal for Iran. There were encouraging signs in the young Iranian side but they will have to develop their game fast, Begovic has little time to get things right, Iranian players must put their chances away and score or they will go no further than the second round qualifiers. Iran football has not qualified for the Olympics since Montreal in 1976.
Iranian lineup: Makani (Goalkepper) - Hamoudi, E. Karimi, Nazifkar, Hamidi - Kolahkaj, Pouladi - Kaabi, Ravankhah (Nazeri), Meydavoudi (Ahmadi) - Oladi (Goudarzi)
Australian line-up: Vukovic (Goalkeeper); McClenahan (Griffin), Milligan, Leijer, Topor-Stanley, Broxham, Sarkies, Burns (Ward), Williams (Vidosic), Bridge, Djite
Asian Olympic Qualifiers Second Round Groups
Group A: Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Pakistan
Group B: Japan, Malaysia, Syria, Hong Kong
Group C: Oman, Lebanon, Vietnam, Indonesia
Group D: Iran, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Australia
Group E: Iraq, DPR Korea, Thailand, India
Group F: Korea Republic, UAE, Uzbekistan, Yemen