AFC 2018 World Cup Qualifying: China holds powerhouse Iran to goalless draw, keeps World Cup hopes alive
|Cristian Andal |||Sep 07, 2016 02:23 AM EDT|
(Photo : Getty Images) China PR holds powerhouse squad Iran to a goalless draw in their 2018 FIFA World Cup AFC qualifying match at the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium on Tuesday.
In an amazing display of fortitude and discipline, China PR held powerhouse team Iran to a 0-0 draw in the second matchday of the 2018 FIFA World Cup AFC qualifying tournament in a match held at the Shenyang Olympic Sports Center Stadium on Tuesday.
With the draw, head coach Gao Hongbo's side have earned their first point in the Group A standings and have also avoided a second straight loss that would have put them at the bottom of the six-team group table.
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Team Dragon is currently at the fourth spot of the standings, tied on points and goal difference with Syria but has a superior goals-scored statistic of two goals as to the latter's zero. Tough squad Qatar is surprisingly at the cellar of the group table at the moment.
FIFA world no. 39 Iran is the overwhelming favorite to beat the 78th ranked Chinese national team, but Lóngzhī Duì was able to fend off the relentless attacks of the Lions of Persia all throughout the match.
Head coach Carlos Queiroz's men have actually dominated the ball possession and shots-on-goal categories, but they were not able to break down the tough defense displayed by China, as per Xinhuanet.
"Iranian players are physically strong and pressed us hard in the first half, so we cannot give them real threat," said Gao. "Generally speaking, I'm satisfied with my players' performance. We have eight matches to play and I think we can get better."
Gao then admitted that his squad is the "weakest team in World Cup qualifying final phase" and so they will not take lightly "any team in the last 12".
The draw came with a cost, though, as Guangzhou Evergrande goalkeeper Zeng Cheng was injured at the 12th minute of the first half after clashing with an Iranian player. Jiangsu Suning shot stopper Gu Chao replaced him for the rest of the match.
Gao commented about Iran's physicality during the match and that he was glad his squad was able to overcome them, according to ESPN.
"You could see how Iran played in the first half. I'm not blaming the referee (Jordanian Adham Makhadmeh), but their physical approach put us in a very difficult situation," Gao said. "I'm satisfied with how the players performed. We still have eight rounds to go and I hope we see this scenario positively."
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