PREVIEW: Iran vs. Lebanon | 2022 World Cup Qualifiers - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More10.11.21
Written by Alex Azarm
Edited by Samson Tamijani
Graphic by Mahdi Javanbakhsh
Thursday 11/11/21: Iran vs. Lebanon
Location: Sidon, Lebanon (Saida Internation Stadium)
Tehran – 15:30
London – 12:00
Berlin – 13:00
Los Angeles – 04:00
New York City – 07:00
Sydney – 23:00
Where To Watch:
USA - Paramount+
UK - OneFootball App or onefootball.com/en/match/2232089
Germany - sporttotal.tv/maa22e1e3a
Sweden - cmore.se/sport/spel/13725801-libanon-iran
Australia - 10 Play
Iran - IRIB 3
Select Countries - youtube.com/AFCAsianCup
Iran travel to Beirut ahead of their fifth match in Group A of AFC 3rd Round against Lebanon as it looks to stay in first place in its group and get a step closer to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
After being unbeaten in their last nine matches and getting 10 points out of 12 in the third round of qualifying, Team Melli hope to create an eight point gap between them and opponent Lebanon, which will host the match in Sidon.
Last time out Iran were up against fierce rivals South Korea in Tehran at the Azadi Stadium. After conceding its first goal of this campaign that came in the form of Tottenham Hotspur star forward Heung-Min Son, Iran equalized behind another headed goal by captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Iran continued with the momentum after the goal from their skipper and were on the front-foot for most of the second half, but were unlucky not to score a winner as Asia’s top ranked squad was denied by the woodwork twice. Iran had to settle for a 1-1 draw, and it was the first time South Korea avoided defeat at the Azadi Stadium since February 2009. It was also the first time Team Melli failed to win under manager Dragan Skočić.
The biggest news inside Team Melli’s camp at Beirut is the omission of star FC Porto striker Mehdi Taremi. What seemed to be another Ali Karimi type controversy between a player and the manager, assistant coach Karim Bagheri has come out and said, “After this camp the disputes will be solved and [Mehdi] Taremi will return to the national team.” Despite that coming as a relief to the fans of the national team and the team itself, they will have to find different options to score this international break.
Usually the team would set up in a 4-4-2 formation, but without Taremi expect Skočić to revert to a 4-2-3-1 and most likely play winger Ali Gholizadeh in place of the omitted player. There will also be an extra central midfielder because of this change of formation. There have also been lots of Team Melli fans shouting for Skočić to start Brentford midfielder Saman Ghoddos. In his past two Premier League appearances for the Bees, he has scored a goal and provided an assist, both off the bench. Skočić might have not started Ghoddos previously because of his lack of game time with his club, but now that he has some minutes under his belt there should be no excuse not to start him. It is likely than he will start as a number 10 behind Azmoun with Nourollahi and Ezatolahi as holding midfielders.
Lastly with the defense, I don’t expect much change in the backline from the previous four matches that we have seen Team Melli in qualifications. The only position that seems to be up for grabs is the left-back spot, there are three candidates for the starting spot as Omid Noorafkan is suspended due to a yellow card accumulation: Vahid Amiri, Ehsan Hajsafi, and Milad Mohammadi, but the likeliest one is Amiri.
In September, the latter was signed by Greek side AEK Athens, joining Iranian teammates Ehsan Hajsafi and Karim Ansarifard. He has since played six games for the club, which is a boost since he wasn’t making the starting XI previously because of a lack of match fitness at club level.
As for other players to look out for, every Iranian will hope to see a potential appearance from 20-year old sensation Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, who has six goals for his Ukrainian club Zorya Luhansk. He seems to be the most in-form player from the players called up for these upcoming matches against Lebanon and Syria and he hopes to make his third cap for Team Melli.
Projected Starting Line-up for Iran (4-2-3-1)
Beiranvand; Moharrami, Kanaani, Khalilzadeh, Amiri; Nourollahi, Ezatolahi; Gholizadeh, Ghoddos, Jahanbakhsh; Azmoun.
The Opponent – Lebanon
Ranked 92nd in the world, the lowest of the remaining 12 teams in Asia, Lebanon have so far exceeded expectations in their first four matches in their group, gaining 5 points and sitting in third place in the process. Their one biggest issue is scoring goals. Despite scoring three goals in those four matches, all came in a 3-2 win against Syria. And against an Iranian defense that has only conceded one goal themselves, it would be extremely difficult for Lebanon to come away with a result should Iran score first.
However, they didn’t get those 5 points from nothing. Lebanon has an astute defence that plays a standard 4-4-2 formation and tries to hit teams on the counter with its two strikers. It has two 0-0 draws against both UAE and Iraq. The Cedars have only lost once, which came against South Korea 1-0. This will be its hardest and biggest match yet as a result is needed. Should they drop all three points against Iran, the Lebanese will have to hope results in other matches go their way so they don’t slip from third place in the group. Iran would create an eight point gap with a win.
Projected Starting Line-up for Lebanon (4-4-2)
Matar; Assi, Melki, Oumari, Zein; Haidar, Melki, Dhaini, Saad; Jradi, Kdouh.
Iran 1 - 0 Lebanon
One thing is almost for certain (knock on wood): Iran will not lose this game with the lack of quality Lebanon has up front. However, this could end 0-0 as Iran have had to scrap out 1-0 victories in the past, such as matches against Syria and UAE and it is never a guarantee for them to score. Had Taremi been playing this match, 2-0 would have been more likely. But the middle ground seems to be the safest route to go with a 1-0 victory to Iran with the source most likely to come from current top scorer in Round 3 of qualifying Alireza Jahanbakhsh, or potentially Zenit St. Petersburg striker Sardar Azmoun.
To listen to our podcast previewing the Iran vs. Lebanon match, visit: golbezanpodcast.com/golbezan/preview-iran-vs-lebanon
Saida International Stadium, Lebanon