Kalaf claims MVP Award

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Muscat: Iraq winger Amjed Kalaf had a Sunday night to remember after being named the Abdullah Al Dabal MVP following his side’s AFC U-22 Championship victory over Saudi Arabia, while Iran’s prolific striker Kaveh Rezaei was named the tournament’s Top Goalscorer after netting five goals in three games.

Kalaf’s combination of blistering pace, crossing ability and silky dribbling skills on the right flank acted as a consistent creative outlet for Hakeem Shakir’s side throughout the competition and he was a key factor in their 100% record that took them to the title.

“Of course, this is the best day in my life, it’s a night to remember: winning the championship and also to be named MVP of the tournament,” said Kalaf.

“The final was a very tough match, against a very strong team, and we are lucky to win the championship.”

The Al Shorta star made three goals in the group stages and also proved to be an attacking threat himself scoring the winner, six minutes from time, against Japan in their quarter-final to cap a stunning performance.

No stranger to match-winning performances, Kaveh Rezaei, who was also top scorer at the 2008 AFC U-16 Championship, made a flying start to the campaign in Oman with a brace against Japan in Iran’s opening Group C fixture in their entertaining 3-3 draw before notching a second-half hat trick in the final group game against Kuwait.

“My aim was always just to help the team and I wasn’t specifically thinking about being the tournament’s top scorer. But obviously being named the top scorer does give me a good feeling,” said Rezaei, whose goals were not enough to take Iran through to the knockout stages.

“The AFC U-22 Championship was a good tournament for me on a personal level. Even though 14 of our players were withdrawn before the start of the competition, which made things tough, we still played well and I enjoyed it.

“If we’d have had all of those players, however, I’d have played even better in front of goal, and maybe I’d have scored even more goals!”

Jordan captain Hamza Al Daradreh’s goal in their semi-final defeat to Saudi Arabia saw him join Kalaf’s team-mate Marwan Al Ajeeli on four for the campaign. Midfielder Abdulfattah Asiri of Saudi Arabia and Japan playmaker Shoya Nakajima were a further goal behind with three for the tournament.