Goa: Coach Abbas Chamanian insists Iran have yet to achieve their target at the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 ahead of his side’s hotly anticipated semi-final clash with defending champions North Korea at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium on Thursday.
The Iranians advanced to the last four for the first time since 2012 following a comprehensive 5-0 quarter-final victory over Vietnam and in doing so also secured their passage to the FIFA U-17 World Cup in India next year as one of the tournament’s four best-placed teams.
But Chamanian’s improving side now have their eyes firmly fixed on Sunday’s final as Iran aim to add to the continental crown they won for the first and only time in 2008.
“Our task isn’t finished because we haven’t reached our final goal; the results so far were just steps towards that,” said Chamanian, who will be unable to call on suspended midfielder Vahid Namdari.
“My players all want to get to the final and I expect them to play without pressure and stress and to be better than they were against Vietnam.”
Iran opened their campaign by defeating Saudi Arabia 3-2 before following up a 1-1 draw against United Arab Emirates with a 3-0 win over hosts India to top Group A.
Chamanian’s team then turned on the style against Vietnam as Allahyar Sayyad, Mohammad Ghaderi, Alireza Asadabadi and Amir Khodamoradi all got on the scoresheet.
“We know Korea are a hardworking and strong team with a big history in Asian tournaments,” added Chamanian. “They will play with energy and motivation.
“But we are only thinking of getting to the final and our players will have to play well to do that. All of Iran expects us to be there so we have no other choice except to win.”
Holders North Korea, meanwhile, scraped through to the last four, while also booking their ticket to the FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017, by the narrowest of margins after a 4-2 penalty shootout victory over Oman followed a 1-1 draw.
Kim Pom-hyok played a captain’s role by equalising with six minutes remaining before netting the decisive penalty as the East Asians continued their quest to win an unprecedented third AFC U-16 Championship.
“The four teams who qualified for the semi-finals are the strongest sides in the tournament,” said coach Yun Jong-su. “We have to prepare even better as I think Iran have been one of the best teams.
“We have played four tough matches and physically we’re tired so we must try and fully recover. We have to assess our quarter-final performance and again look to improve for the next match.”
The 2014 and 2010 champions played out 2-0 and 4-1 wins against Yemen and Thailand respectively before a 3-1 reversal to Uzbekistan saw Korea advance to the last eight as Group D runners-up.
Monday’s quarter-final success secured a return to the semi-final for the fifth time in seven attempts and kept alive the Koreans’ dream of also becoming the first team to win back-to-back titles.
“No one has ever won the championship two times in a row so we will try our best to become the first,” added Yun.
“But you can never be sure. We have to put in a good performance as football is all about playing well on the day.”