Iran, Iraq fight for the AFC U16 Championship silverware

AFC Media

Goa: Coach Qahtan Chitheer wants Iraq to create history in Sunday’s AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 final showdown with neighbours Islamic Republic of Iran and win the title for a first time.

Iraq have already achieved a best ever performance at the continental competition after seeing off Japan 4-2 in Thursday’s semi-final, but Chitheer believes the opportunity is there to go one better.

Standing in the West Asians’ way at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium, though, is an on-form Iran team that ousted holders DPR Korea on penalties after the sides had played out a 1-1 draw in Thursday’s other last-four clash.

Forward Mohammed Dawood has been in scintillating form, netting six times in the last three games including a hat-trick against Japan and both goals in the 2-0 quarter-final victory over Uzbekistan.

The defeat of the Central Asians ensured Iraq booked their place at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup, also in India, as one of the tournament’s four highest-placed teams.

Iraq showcased their early tournament credentials in their opening game of the competition after coming from behind to claim a 2-1 victory over 2014 runners-up Korea Republic.

Chitheer’s team then played out back-to-back draws with Malaysia and Oman to qualify for the knockout stage in second place in Group C.

On the other hand, Iran coach  Abbas Chamanian has urged his team to achieve what they set out to do and win the AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 title ahead of Sunday’s final with Iraq at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium.

Iran sealed their place in a first final since winning the competition in 2008 after a 6-5 penalty shootout victory over defending champions DPR Korea in Thursday’s semi-final followed a 1-1 draw.

Chamanian’s side must now overcome neighbours Iraq, who ran out impressive 4-2 victors over Japan in Thursday’s other last-four fixture, if they are to claim a second continental crown.

Mohammad Sharifi’s first-half goal saw Iran go into the interval a goal to the good against DPR Korea only for Kim Pom-hyok to equalise late on and take the semi-final to penalties.

With the shootout at 5-5 goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh stepped up to score before returning to his line to save from Kim Kyong-sok as the Iranians progressed to their third final at the AFC youth event.

But unable to call on injured captain Aref Alipour since Matchday Two, Chamanian now has fresh concerns over influential midfielder Mohammad Ghaderi and defender Saeid Ahani ahead of a first meeting with Iraq at the competition since a scoreless draw in the 2006 group stage.

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