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Ansarifard happy just to play for IR Iran

Hong Kong: Karim Ansarifard was restored to his favoured centre forward’s role as the Islamic Republic of Iran made a winning start to their Asian Qualifiers campaign against Hong Kong, but the Team Melli star is prepared to maintain a flexible approach to ensure he retains his spot in Marc Wilmots’ star-studded side.

Ansarifard scored his side’s second in the 2-0 FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 qualifying match win at Hong Kong Stadium on Tuesday, doubling Iran’s lead following Sardar Azmoun’s opener in an impressive first competitive game under the former Belgium coach.

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Wilmots started with Ansarifard in the central striker’s position as a partner to Azmoun in a potent pairing as the 29-year-old reverted to the role he held when he first made his name in the international game.

But while Ansarifard was delighted to be back scoring goals after a lengthy period spent playing in a variety of positions under former coach Carlos Queiroz, he plans to continue to put team glory ahead of personal satisfaction.

“All of our country appreciates Carlos Queiroz, he did a fantastic job for us and really we had a good time with him but this was the formation he had,” he said of the tactical approach of the Portuguese coach, who led Iran to consecutive FIFA World Cup tournaments."

“If he wants me to play in any position I have to play, and I don’t have any problems. With Carlos Queiroz there were a few games I played in my normal position, or I played as a midfielder or I played as a winger and we had some tactics for that. I’m happy to play in any position.

“Each coach has his own programme, his own tactics and we respect all of them. Our new coach is doing well for us. All over the world, each coach has his own tactics and we have to respect that and play the way they want, that’s the most important thing.”

The fluidity of Iran’s attack often left Hong Kong chasing shadows, although Mixu Paatelainen’s side did well to limit an attack that also featured Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Mehdi Torabi to two goals at a boisterous Hong Kong Stadium.

The understanding between Ansarifard and Azmoun, in particular, caused the home defence difficulties and the Al Sailiya forward stressed that potency comes from a strong sense of familiarity between the players.

“Our team, we all have played together, most of us, for seven or eight years,” he said. “We know the movement of each other and it makes it easier to read our positions. We have to continue like this and it doesn’t matter who plays, we play for our flag and our country and we will give every time 100 percent.”

The win means Iran are in second place in Group C after their opening game and trail Bahrain, who have played one game more, by a point. Wilmots’ team next face Cambodia in Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on October 10.

“It was a great game for us and a good result,” said Ansarifard of the win over Hong Kong. “I think for the first game we did well and we have to continue like this because all the teams now in our group are strong. Hong Kong earned our respect, they are a really good team but I think we were better tonight and we deserved the result.

“In the future it doesn’t matter who we play, we have to get the three points. That’s the most important thing.”

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