Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Monday January 28, 2019
Iran soccer players pose for a team photo at the Asian Cup tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
Iran’s soccer squad will face Japan on January 28 in the semifinals of the Asian Cup tournament in the United Arab Emirates.
"We need to be ourselves and play with confidence and trust," Iranian coach Carlos Queiroz told reporters in the city of Al Ain on January 27.
"We have our own weapons to play with but, of course, we have to pay attention to the Japanese team and adapt and try to control the strong points, and they have a lot."
Going into the tournament, FIFA world 49th-ranked Iran and 50th-ranked Japan were considered the favorites to take the title.
The winner of the Iran-Japan match will face the winner of the contest between host United Arab Emirates and Qatar to be played on January 29. The final will be on February 1.
If Iran can beat Japan in the 25,000-seat Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in Al Ain, it would give the country its first trip to the finals since the last of three consecutive championships in 1976.
"It’s a hundred percent our dream to win the 2019 AFC Asian Cup,” said Iran’s Karim Ansarifard.
"We are all dreaming of Iran being the champions. We will try for the people of our country, so that we can achieve everyone’s dream."
The Iranian squad will play without Mehdi Taremi, who was suspended after picking up a second booking in a quarterfinal victory over China.
The tournament comes amid simmering regional tensions.
United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia broke off diplomatic relations with Qatar in 2016. Qatar is scheduled to be the 2022 World Cup host.