x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Daei not so bold this time

The last time Ali Daei brought his team to the UAE, he upset Bruno Metsu with his boasts. On this occasion he is not so bold.

DUBAI // The last time Ali Daei brought his team to the UAE, he upset Bruno Metsu with his boasts. The Iran coach bragged that his side would beat the hosts comfortably. This time, though, Daei is making no such claims. Instead, he has warned his men to be ready for a "struggle" against the "dangerous" UAE when they meet at the Al Nasr Stadium in Dubai on Wednesday night. The UAE are point-less after three games in the final rounds of World Cup qualifying but their performance against the Iranians in the two games of the previous round is also a reason for their optimism. The UAE battled for a 0-0 draw in Tehran and created a number of chances in the 1-0 loss at home.

Daei, who arrives in Dubai today with his squad, is expecting a similarly dogged fight from the hosts this week. "We are well aware that the UAE are very dangerous," he said. "They want to qualify for the final round, so they are determined to get all points. Iran will struggle to beat them. "The UAE have progressed a lot in the last few years. "Our matches against them were tough and this proves their football is better than in the past."

Daei has recalled Karim Bagheri for the match after seven years in the wilderness. Bagheri, 34, retired after Iran's failure to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, but Daei, who was short of attacking options, convinced him to return. "Bagheri is a great player, who played well against Qatar [a 1-0 friendly win last week] and we will count on him during the UAE match," said Daei. The Iranian skipper Mehdi Mahdavikia has offered to hand back the captain's armband to Bagheri. He said: "I am so pleased to see him in the team. Karim is a great player who deserves to wear the armband."

arizvi@thenational.ae