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Asian Cup 2019: Iran see off Oman as Jordan fall to Vietnam Open in fullscreen

Uri Levy

Asian Cup 2019: Iran see off Oman as Jordan fall to Vietnam

Iran's Ali Reza Safarbeiranvand saved Kano's penalty kick in the game's opening stages [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 January, 2019

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Iran will now face China in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup 2019.

After two days of rest, the Asian Cup 2019 is back, and it's running full power with some great knockout games.

On Sunday afternoon, Jordan played Vietnam in the first game of the day. The Neshameh arrived at the match with huge expectations, after winning seven points in a tremendous group stage, looking to fulfil the "dark horse" reputation they had acquired.

It started well. Vital Borkelmans, Jordan's Belgian coach, had his best players on the attack, and the team looked threatening, while the opponents from Vietnam looked shaky and vulnerable. Nguyen Quang Hai and his teammates were still able to test goalkeeper Amer Shafi, however.

Baha Abdulrahman lit up the match in the 38th minute with a tremendous free kick from the left side straight into the upper right corner of the goal, dipping just below the crossbar - a spectacular 1-0 to the Hashemites.

When it looked like Jordan would easily knock out the South East Asian champions, the second half saw a completely different Vietnam. With a series of counter-attacks the Golden Dragons found the Jordanian defence unprepared, and Nguyen Cong Phuong struck a half-volley from inside the box to make it 1-1.

Borkelmans somehow lost confidence, and minute after minute withdrew his attacking players, changing his formation from 4-2-3-1 to 4-5-1 with a lone striker, nearly ending the Jordanians' attacking play. One after another, all of Jordan's best attackers left the field. Musa al-Taamari, Yassin Bakhit, Saeed Murjan and Youssef al-Rawashdeh all found themselves taking an early bath.

The shift to a defensive style allowed Vietnam to get on to the front foot, but the match went to extra-time, then to a penalty shootout.

Vietnam opened the session and scored. Abdulrahman answered with an equaliser. Hung Dung made it 2-1, before Jordan missed twice through Baha Faisal and Ahmed Samir. Shafi made one save for Jordan, but when But Thin Dung found the net, it was all over, 4-2 on penalties.

This is the second time Jordan has been eliminated from the Asian Cup knockout rounds via penalties, having made it to this stage three times in total.

Until their elimination, Jordan had a great tournament. After years of managerial instability, it seems that the least football-famous country the region is on the right track to progress.

The second match of the day saw Iran play Oman at Mohamed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Three minutes into the game, Oman won a penalty. The Iranian players were shocked, but luckily for them, they have a goalkeeper named Alireza Beiranvand. The Persepolis number one, who stopped a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty in the World Cup, stretched to the right and saved Ahmed Kano al-Muhaijari's to keep Iran safe early on.

Iran gained more confidence - and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, the winger who plays for Brighton in the English Premier League, stole a ball from Oman's defence to make it 1-0 after 32 minutes. Iran did not play dramatically better than Oman, but they were more accurate and got some help from the referee when needed.

In the 41st minute, Mehdi Taremi fell in the box, and Cesar Ramos of Mexico saw a foul and called for a penalty.

Ashkan Dejagah, one of Iran's best players this tournament, converted for a 2-0 lead a few minutes before halftime; his second goal of the tournament. Dejagah's goal was the first penalty scored by Iran in an Asian Cup match (excluding penalty shootouts) since 2007.

Taremi nearly added another, but missed a great opportunity on the verge of the half-time whistle.

Iran took control in the second half, with numerous threats faced by Omani goalie Fayez Al-Rashidi. Oman tried hard, but could not overcome one of the leading contenders to win the competition.

It was Iran's first victory in the tournament's knockout stage since 2004, when they also played Oman. They now will play China in the quarter-finals, in a must-win match for Queiroz and his players.

Iran are also just the third nation to keep a clean sheet in all of their opening four matches in a single Asian Cup tournament, after Korea in 2015 (which saw a five-game winning streak) and Iran themselves back in 1976.

With the tournament progressing, it seems that the Iran of Quieroz Queiroz is a team that gives a lot of credit to the opponent and will adapt accordingly to their skills. Whether it's Iraq at al-Maktoum or against Ronaldo's Portugal - Team Melli are sure to produce a world class match.

If it's against a lesser quality opponent, such as Oman, they struggle to get their game going, and find it hard to produce the winning X-factor. Against China, there will be no excuses.

 

Uri Levy runs the popular football blog BabaGol, which covers football and politics focusing on the Middle East. Follow him on Twitter, and read his blog here.

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