News ID: 169541
Published: 0528 GMT September 30, 2016

Iran qualifies for AFC U-16 Championship final

Iran qualifies for AFC U-16 Championship final

Goalkeeper Ali Gholamzadeh was the hero as Iran booked a date with Iraq in Sunday’s AFC U-16 Championship India 2016 final after claiming a 6-5 penalty shootout win over defending champion DPR Korea following a 1-1 draw in Thursday’s semifinal.


Iran dominated the first half at Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium and took a one-goal lead into the break thanks to captain Mohammad Sharifi before Kye Tam levelled the scores from the spot to take the semifinal to penalties, reported.

With the shootout at 5-5 Gholamzadeh scored his spot kick before returning to his line to save from Kim Kyong-sok as the 2008 champion advanced to the final for only the second time.

After starting the stronger, Abbas Chamanian’s team came close on 16 minutes as Allahyar Sayyad's cross-goal shot evaded an outstretched Sin Tae-song in the Korean goal only to come back off the right post.

As one-way traffic ensued Iran took a deserved lead on three minutes later after Sin was penalized for picking up a back pass on the edge of the six-yard box.

Mohammad Ghaderi rolled the ensuing free-kick to Sharifi and the skipper fired in low and hard at the near post.

Iran showed no sign of letting up as Sayyad headed Amirhossein Esmaeilzadeh’s corner from the right just wide midway through the half before the frontman was again off target with a header.s

The holder remained a threat, though, and substitute Kim Hwi-hwang forced Gholamzadeh to tip round the right post after the ball broke kindly for him in the box two minutes before the interval.

DPR Korea came out with renewed purpose after the restart and captain Kim Pom-hyok drilled in a free-kick from fully 35 yards that was well dealt with by the Iran custodian before Cha Kwang was narrowly off target from the right side of the Iranian penalty area.

With the tie firmly in the balance Iran sought to give itself breathing space and substitute Alireza Asadabadi saw his powerfully struck effort from distance on 55 minutes tipped over the crossbar.

As the half wore on, though, Yun Jong-su’s team took firm control of proceedings. Kim Hwi-hwang should have done better than head into Gholamzadeh’s arms from seven yards after being teed up by Paek Kwang-min.

The Koreans’ superiority paid off with 11 minutes remaining when Yun Min’s free-kick was handled by Amir Khodamoradi in the Iranian wall and, after the referee pointed to the spot, Kye made no mistake in dispatching beyond the reach of Gholamzadeh.

But substitute Younes Delfi should have won for Iran with three minutes remaining only to side-foot inches wide when one-on-one with Sin and Asadabadi did likewise in stoppage time.

With no extra time at the AFC U-16 competition the game went to penalties and Sharifi opened the scoring before Kye evened things up. Esmaeilzadeh netted but Yun Min again levelled, before both Saeid Ahani and Kim Chung-jin scored.

Sin then saved from Khodamoradi only for Gholamzadeh to tip Cha’s effort onto the upright. Asadabadi coolly slotted home and, after the Iranian ‘keeper was adjudged to have come off his line to save from Kim Pom-hyok, the Korean captain scored the retake.

Taha Shariati and Paek scored before Gholamzadeh side-footed home and returned to his line to save from Kim Kyong-sok and send his side through to Sunday's finale.


Coaches' comments


Iran's Coach Abbas Chamanian hailed his side's fighting spirit after it ousted holder DPR Korea on penalties following a 1-1 draw in Thursday’s semifinal to set up a date with Iraq in Sunday’s final.s

Iraq saw off Japan 4-2 in Thursday’s earlier semifinal.

“DPR Korea is a very strong team and our players had to fight hard to win this match,” said Chamanian.

“We played very well in the first half but they began to control the midfield in the second half and we lost our confidence.

“Then DPR Korea scored the equalizer so we had to try and fight back again and at the end we had two great chances that the players didn’t take.”

Iran had earlier topped Group A ahead of United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and host India after two wins and a draw were enough to see it advance to the last eight above the Emiratis on goal difference.

Then with a place at the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup at stake, the Iranians produced a dominant performance to defeat Vietnam 5-0.

“We have been practicing penalties for three months, but it is also very important at this age to take first as it allowed us to control the shootout,” added Chamanian.

“We are very, very happy to win this game and now we can look forward to the final.”

DPR Korea, meanwhile, had been looking to become the first side to claim back-to-back titles as well as win an unprecedented third AFC U-16 Championship.

But the East Asians endured an indifferent tournament and, despite booking their return ticket to India for next year’s FIFA U-17 World Cup, needed a penalty shootout to edge past Oman in the last eight.

“After we conceded early it became very tough for us as it affected the players psychologically,” said coach Yun Jong-su.

“They tried their best to get back into the game in the first half but they were not playing well.

“At halftime I told them to calm down, not to worry about the first goal and play with confidence. We played much better after that.

“We were confident before the penalties because we won the last one but in the end you need some luck and we didn’t get it like in the last game.”

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