Three-time champions Iran will face arch-rivals Iraq in the AFC Asian Cup quarter-finals on Friday, while reigning champions Japan are against Omar Abdulrahman’s impressive UAE.
Historical enmity runs deep between Iran and Iraq, and their rivalry on the pitch is also strong. While Iraq won in 2007, neighbours Iran have not lifted the trophy for 39 years. But Iraq coach Radhi Shenaishil urged his players to leave their emotions in the tunnel as they aim to regain the trophy they won so astonishingly in 2007.
“The coaching staff will be telling players to forget about emotions,” he said. “On the day they are there to do their duty and the team that can produce on the day will get the win.”
At stake in the 17.30 pm (06.30 GMT) kick-off is a semi-final clash with Korea Republic after the Taeguk Warriors beat Uzbekistan 2-0 after extra time late on Thursday. Vocal supporters of both teams are expected en masse at Canberra’s 25,000-seater stadium, but Iran coach Carlos Queiroz also said keeping a cool head was key.
“Controlling emotions is not going to be easy, but as I said to my boys this morning everything goes to the winner — nothing to the loser,” he said.
Japan face ‘Amoory’ and UAE
In Sydney, four-time champions Japan look to safely navigate the potential banana skin of UAE and their classy No10 Abdulrahman, ‘Amoory’, who is linked with a move to English champions Manchester United.
Japan coach Javier Aguirre played down worries that his side would be struggling for fitness after a tough game against Jordan on Tuesday. Kick-off is at 20.30 pm (09.30 GMT).
“The intensity of the last game (against Jordan) was very high but we expect tomorrow our players will be 100 per cent recovered,” he said.
The winners go into a semi-final against hosts Australia in Newcastle on 27 January after the Socceroos’ 2-0 victory over China PR.