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PREVIEW: Iran vs. Syria | 2023 AFC Asian Cup - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More

30.01.24PREVIEW: Iran vs. Syria | 2023 AFC Asian Cup - Team News, Opposition Insight, Predictions and More

Wednesday 31/10/24: Iran vs. Syria

7 PM local time

Location: Doha, Qatar (Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium)

After securing 9 out of 9 points in the group stages, Iran will take on the third-placed team from Group B in the Round of 16 in the 2023 AFC Asian Cup.


Iran were favorites in Group C of the Asian Cup along with Palestine, Hong Kong, and United Arab Emirates. Team Melli kicked off their campaign against Palestine where Iran looked fluid in attack winning the match 4-1 after three first half goals. They then went up against Hong Kong, who were viewed as the group’s weakest team going into the tournament. Iran manager Amir Ghalenoei decided to rotate the squad to give rest to some of the main players in the squad and a chance for others to prove as to why they should be knocking on the door into the starting XI. Despite winning the match 1-0 and keeping their first clean sheet of the tournament, it was far from the Persian Cheetahs’ best performance. The lack of experience from the new faces showed and the stats were deceiving. Iran had 71% possession and 14 shots (four on target) whereas Hong Kong had just nine shots (two on target). However, Iran’s backline and goalkeeper gave the ball away numerous times but were lucky that Hong Kong were not able to put their own chances away. Had it been against a better team, Iran could have easily walked away with zero points. Ghalenoei decided to stop with the experiments and fielded arguably his best team against the UAE and it showed, as Iran put in their strongest performance of the group stages and won their third and final match of Group C 2-1, with both goals coming from star striker Mehdi Taremi.

Team News

During the group stages, there were a few players that put on really solid performances and will look to be players to watch in the knockout stages should Iran go on to win the whole tournament for the first time since 1976. One of them is Brentford midfielder Saman Ghoddos. He was Man Of The Match in the first match against Palestine after getting two assists. He is one of just five players to start all three matches in Group C and has controlled the midfield. Another player who has started every match so far is left-winger Mehdi Ghayedi, who has two goals to his name. The 25-year old has looked bright showcasing his rapid pace and crossing ability from the left-hand side. And there is obviously the aforementioned striker Mehdi Taremi. He didn’t score in the first two matches but got a brace against the UAE and won Man Of The Match. The FC Porto man is rumored to be heading to Inter Milan next season and he is showing why he is Iran’s best player.

In terms of line-up news, center-back Hossein Kanaani will be serving a one-match suspension after he picked up an accumulation of yellow cards against UAE and is out against Syria. Iran are quite thin at center-back as Majid Hosseini was not in the squad in the last match and is still uncertain if he is fit enough to start against Syria. Rouzbeh Cheshmi will most likely start alongside Shoja Khalilzadeh at central defense despite starting the game against Hong Kong in midfield, as he can operate in both positions.

The biggest negative to come from the three wins in the group stage was a knee injury to right-back Sadegh Moharrami, as he landed awkwardly in the first half against UAE and had to be stretchered off. It was later revealed to be a torn ACL, so he will miss the remainder of the Asian Cup. This is a huge blow to Team Melli as he secured the starting job as right-back going into the tournament and was putting in good performances. Experienced right-back Ramin Rezaeian subbed in for Moharrami and will likely be the new starting right-back for the knockout stages.

The 2-1 scoreline against UAE was not reflective of the performance that Iran put in last week. They had two goals chalked off due to VAR (one particularly controversially) and were constantly attacking UAE while conceding zero shots in the first half. The lone goal scored by the opponents was in the last few minutes of injury time and did not affect Iran’s status in Group C. Iran could have easily won by three or four goals. That type of performance can definitely boost the morale of the squad. Should Amir Ghalenoei put out the same starting XI that finished the match against UAE, one can expect a similar performance against Syria.

Projected Starting Line-up (4-4-2)

Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Cheshmi, Khalilzadeh, Hajsafi (C); Gholizadeh, Ezatolahi, Ghoddos, Jahanbakhsh; Azmoun, Taremi.

The opponent: Syria

On the other side, Syria made it out of their group in third place with four points. They only lost 1-0 to one of the favorites of the tournament, Australia, then drew 0-0 against an underrated Uzbekistan side, and ended their group campaign with a 1-0 win against India. They are known for their defense as they only conceded one goal in three matches but they struggle to create chances. However, lots of people did not expect them to come out of their tough group and that alone should let Iran know to not take them lightly. In the 2019 AFC Asian Cup, Iran started the game sloppy against underdogs Oman. Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand had to bail out Iran in the first couple of minutes with a penalty save which woke up the team and raised their level for the rest of the match, winning 2-0. If Iran starts off slow again, Syria will make them pay.

The two main players to look out for are Argentinian-born midfielder Jalil Elias and Greek-born right-back Abdul Rahman Oues. They have been essential to how structured the defense and midfield have been and will look to break up Iran’s attacks to counter and try to nick a goal.


Iran 1- 0 Syria

I would expect Iran to dominate at least 70% possession against a Syrian team that likes to soak up the pressure and sit back in defense. Syria have only a combined five shots on target from their attack but their main goal is to try to win on a counter attack or try to send the match into extra-time or penalties. It’s going to take some star power from Iran to get past them but Iran has a very good record against Syria and have beaten them in their last four occasions. I would expect someone like Mehdi Taremi to score with Saman Ghoddos providing the assist, but also the wingers can exploit the Syrian back line with Mehdi Ghayedi and Ali Gholizadeh in good form. As long as Iran don’t make any mistakes playing from the back as they did against Hong Kong, they should keep a comfortable clean sheet. With Team Melli in high spirits, I can only see this match ending with Syria going home and Iran advancing into the quarterfinals.

Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, Doha