EghtesadOnline: Iran was crowned the AFC Futsal Championship winner for the 12th time after beating Japan 4-0 on Sunday, in Taipei, Taiwan.
Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh gave Iran the lead in the first half, and further goals from Farhad Tavakoli, Hossein Tayebi and Hassanzadeh again secured them a second consecutive title.
According to the AFC website, the battle between the continent’s two futsal giants began as expected, with both sides playing a high pressure game with intense marking from the first blow of the whistle, and Mahdi Javid came dangerously close for Iran in the opening minutes when his effort struck the goal frame.
Japan head coach Bruno Garcia kept his players fully charged with flying substitutions which forced Iran to constantly adapt to the changing formations, according to Financial Tribune.
Both sides were evenly matched and had their fair share of possession, but Japan had the upper hand in shots on target, and after 17 minutes of play, Ryosuke Nishitani came closest for the East Asians with his effort from a difficult angle rocking the bar.
But a minute from the halftime whistle, Tavakoli intercepted Japan goalkeeper Higor Pires’ long range pass, and surged down the left flank before sending a neat pass to skipper Hassanzadeh for a fine shot to the bottom right to break the deadlock.
Just 20 seconds into the second half, Iran threatened with Javid’s cross into the box but Ahmad Esmaeilpour just failed to connect. Two minutes later, Tavakoli made no mistake from close range to double their lead.
Esmaeilpour displayed spectacular individual skill when he moved on the counter in the 29th minute, dribbling through the Japanese defense before passing it to Hassanzadeh, who finished superbly.
Japanese players were impressive in moving the ball between tight spaces, but the Iranian defense seemed almost impenetrable, and with five minutes left, they opted for the power play with Kaoru Morioka coming in as their fifth attacking force.
Despite numerous attempts, it backfired with Tayebi shooting into an unguarded goalmouth in the final minute to claim a convincing victory.
“I want to congratulate Iran for the win. But I would also like to say I’m proud of my team. We played face-to-face against Iran, and we followed our match plan the entire game. We will definitely fix some of our mistakes, such as in defense, but Japan will definitely be back stronger and more successful in the future,” Japan head coach Bruno Garcia said.
After the decisive victory, Mohammad Nazemasharieh, Iran head coach, said: “I want to first say thanks to all those who have helped us reach here. I am the happiest man in the stadium right now. I am proud of my players, but I would also like to state that every team here has our respect.”
Most Valuable Player
Ali Asghar Hassanzadeh of Iran was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.
The MVP of the competition is awarded to the player who has shown excellence in play, and his overall contribution to his team during the entire competition, and Hassanzadeh has - without doubt - shown those qualities.
“I’m more than happy to receive this award. But I don’t believe it’s mine alone, as it belongs to my team, all the players who have helped me throughout the tournament,” Hassanzadeh said.
Hassanzadeh, who scored 12 goals in six matches and was just two short of tournament Top Scorer and compatriot Hussein Tayebi’s haul, extended his gratitude to the management team and the supporters who had travelled to Taipei to cheer them on.
“I also have to say thanks to all of our fans who supported us. We are the top team of Asia because of their support, and we rely on their support,” he noted.
Top Scorer Award
Iran star Hossein Tayebi emerged top scorer at the end of the competition with a haul of 14 goals.
It was Tayebi’s second top scorer award following his first win four years ago in Vietnam.
Tayebi was instrumental throughout the tournament as he scored hat-tricks against Myanmar, China and Thailand. His last goal of the tournament against Japan in the final summed up his fantastic tournament.
“This is something I’m very happy about, but I’m just happy for my team. I’m not thinking of myself, whether I’m the top scorer or not. The success must be for my team, rather than for myself. The secret to our success is concentration,” Tayebi said.