Asia: Iran defeat champions; Matchday 1 Review
With each team having played their opening game of the 2011 AFC Asian Cup the tournament’s group phase will begin to get interesting from here. Stoppage Time looks back at the competition so far and previews the next round of matches.
Group D began today with defending champions Iraq facing their neighbours and old adversaries Iran. Iraqi captain Younis Mahmoud gave his side the lead after 12 minutes converting from close range but the Iranians equalized just four minutes before half-time when Gholamreza Rezaei beat the offside trap and slotted the ball past Iraqi keeper Mohammed Gassid. The second half saw Iran up the tempo whilst Iraq, more often the not, were on the back foot but were holding on. Six minutes before the end of the game Iran got the chance they were hoping for when they were awarded a free-kick on the left-hand side of the pitch. The resulting kick from Iman Mobali evaded everybody in the box and caught the keeper flat-footed as it saw its way home to give Iran a 2-1 lead they never relinquished. In the other game of the day North Korea blew their chance to claim three points as Yong Jo-Hong missed a penalty early in the first half in their goalless stalemate against the United Arab Emirates.
The 2011 AFC Asian Cup opened on Friday and has witnessed 19 goals in the first eight games of the competition. The opening match saw hosts Qatar miss their chance to start the tournament on a high as they lost 2-0 to Uzbekistan in Group A. China also began Group A with a win defeating Kuwait by the same scoreline thanks to second half goals from Zhang Linpeng and Deng Zhouxiang. Syria have got the wind in their sails in Group B as they are the only team with three points following their opening match 2-1 victory over Saudi Arabia whilst their other group opponents Japan and Jordan could only muster a 1-1 draw. For the Japanese, a round of 16 team in the 2010 FIFA World Cup, the draw was a disappointing way to begin but they still have every chance of claiming top spot. The big winners in the competition so far have been Australia who got off to a flying start in Group C with a 4-0 win over 2008 AFC Challenge Cup winners India with a brace from Tim Cahill followed up with goals for Harry Kewell and Brett Holman. Australia are expected to qualify from this group along with South Korea who were also opening day winners with a 2-1 win over Bahrain, Jo-Cheol Koo getting the crucial double strike for the Koreans.
Arguably the pick of the bunch in the next round of games will be the top of the table clash between Group C rivals Australia and South Korea who both have serious title ambitions. In Group A it will be tough for the host nation to salvage their title hopes as they face off against leaders China whilst in Group B the Japanese will want to show table toppers Syria that they are back on track following their opening match blip.