Group C: Hong Kong reinforced for duel with high flying Iran

January 18 – Hong Kong manager Jorn Andersen has promised that his side will peak for their David-vs-Goliath clash against continental heavyweights Iran and improve from their 4-0 defeat in November in World Cup qualifying. 

For the first time in the tournament, Andersen can count on a full squad of 26 players with Helio, one of the team captains, returning to match fitness. The naturalised Brazilian is a key part of the team’s setup and the central defender’s potential return to the side will be a significant boost as, on Friday, they take on a top-heavy Iran, who put four past Palestine in their opening match, in Group C

“The condition of the players is high, they can fight and press for 90 minutes,” said Andersen. “Tomorrow, we will see a different Hong Kong from the one in Tehran. We are the lowest-ranked team – every game is very hard, we know that. We know how strong they are, they have players in top European leagues. Every game starts at 0-0 and we will try our best.”

In November, Hong Kong were on the wrong end of a 4-0 defeat in the World Cup qualifiers in the Iranian capital with Mehdi Taremi running riot and destroying the Hong Kong rearguard.

Having shown promise against the United Arab Emirates, the team ranked 150th in the FIFA world rankings wants to avoid a repeat scenario of the last drubbing. With his side’s impressive work rate and aggression, Andersen believes his team can be competitive against Iran, 29th in the FIFA ranking and the second-highest ranked team on the continent.

“We will be facing one of the top three nations,” said Helio (pictured), who had to sit out the first match on the bench.

“It will be a very good experience. I have played twice against them. I know how they play, how difficult it is. In the past, Hong Kong played defensively, trying to hold teams. We have changed the style a little bit with Andersen, trying to attack a bit more.”

Iran’s manager Amir Ghalenoei said he will tweak his team slightly, but said they can still improve from their Palestine performance, stressing that technically his players are outstanding. “Hong Kong has seven players with double passports which is two more than last time, but we are so ready for this match, we are so ready from a tactical point of view,” said Ghalenoei. “We know we have good technical players.”

All eyes will be on Porto’s Taremi again, who failed to score in the opening match. He downplayed rumours that link him with a move to Inter Milan in Italy.

In the group’s other match, Palestine face the UAE on Thursday. If the UAE and Iran prevail in both their matches, the sides will have guaranteed a ticket to the knockout stage.

Contact the writer of this story at moc.l1709588102labto1709588102ofdlr1709588102owedi1709588102sni@i1709588102tnuk.1709588102ardni1709588102mas1709588102

 

 


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