Muharraq: Islamic Republic of Iran head coach Dragan Skocic was proud of his team while Iraq counterpart Srecko Katanec said Iraq should draw lessons from their 1-0 defeat the Central Asian side in their final Asian Qualifiers Group C tie for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and AFC Asian Cup China 2023 on Tuesday.
Sardar Azmoun's first half goal proved enough for Iran to clinch the three points as they completed a remarkable turnaround to emerge group winners and seal a place in the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and confirm their appearance in the AFC Asian Cup China 2023.
Despite the defeat, Iraq also advanced to the final round of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers as one of the best runners-up teams but Katanec believes his side should have gotten a better result.
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“Congratulations to Iran for their win and also qualifying to the next round,” said Katanec. “They had one chance in the first half and they scored from it.
“Iran are one of the best teams and they have shown quality but unfortunately, we always concede goals.
“We improved in the second half because we knew that we had secured our place in the next stage but we still conceded some chances and we must draw lessons from today’s defeat."
Katanec said Iraq achieved their target despite some tough conditions.
“I want to congratulate the players for qualifying to the final round,” he said. “We achieved this despite many of our key players not having played competitive football with their clubs for months.
“That is why I’m happy that we managed to get six points (upon the resumption of the Asian Qualifiers). However, this will not be enough in the final round and to be honest, our task will be very difficult.”
Iran closed off their campaign in style, winning all four matches in their return to the Qualifiers and head coach Skocic was proud of what his side achieved in their bid for a sixth FIFA World Cup appearance.
"We ended a tough tournament because we were under pressure to win our four matches," said Skocic. "I want to congratulate my players for their efforts."
"Before the match kicked off, I asked my men to play without any stress, but playing against such a team without showing any nerves is very difficult.
"We were very organised in the first half but I am not satisfied with the way we played the second half even though we had several goal scoring chances."
"After we scored the goal, the team lost control of the match, and it made me angry. We have to remember that every match was like a knockout match for us, and it made our job difficult.
"Iran deserved to win a place in the final round. I am very happy and proud to lead the Iranian players. Hopefully we can continue our good run in the next stage."
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