x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Iran are ready to continue their domination of futsal in Asia

Level of Asian game has 'consistently been improving', while Iran remain favourites having won 10 of the past 11 tournaments.

DUBAI // Iran, champions at 10 of the 11 previous AFC Futsal Championship, will again start as favourites when the continental tournament kicks-off at the Al Wasl and Al Shabab clubs today.

The Iranians, ranked No 6 in the world, will meet South Korea tonight at Shabab in their opening match of Group C, before facing Qatar and Australia tomorrow and Sunday.

"The first match is very important, but then you can say the same about every game," said Ali Sanei, the coach of the star-studded Iran team, which includes Mohammad Kesharvarz, the reigning AFC Futsal Player of the Year, and Vahid Shamsaee, the top scorer at seven AFC Futsal Championships.

"At the same time, our dream is to repeat our success and take back the trophy to Iran."

The only other team to win the Asian title is Japan and they did it by beating Iran 5-1 in the semi-finals of the 2006 tournament in Uzbekistan. They beat the hosts 5-1 in the final.

The Iranians avenged that defeat by beating Japan 4-1 in the 2007 final and knocking them out at the semi-final stage of the following two championships in Thailand and Uzbekistan.

"Iran are a great team and for me, they are right up there among the world's best alongside Spain, Portugal and Brazil," said Miguel Rodrigo, the Japan coach whose team are in Group B alongside Lebanon, Tajikistan and Chinese Taipei.

"Obviously, we are the challengers and we have been preparing for this tournament, thinking not just about Iran but the other teams as well.

"There are many good teams here and the level of futsal in Asia has been improving consistently. So every game will be a challenge for us.

"Hopefully we can win our group and then if we have the chance of meeting Iran, we will be ready for it."