Taremi focused on team goals, Helio warns of IR Iran pace

Islamic Republic of Iran forward Mehdi Taremi is more focused on collective objectives than getting on the scoresheet, ahead of his team’s AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023™ Group C encounter against Hong Kong, China on Friday.

Team Melli got their campaign up to a flying start, beating Palestine 4-1, but the FC Porto striker was not amongst the scorers on the night, having scored three goals in the previous edition.

“We are very happy that we started on a winning note, it is important,” said Taremi.

“Now all of our concentration is on the Hong Kong match. We are a very good team technically and I am optimistic of playing a good match tomorrow.

“I don’t really have time to think about my own glory, becoming champions is much more interesting for me,  I think this tournament is not about the stars, the teams are the stars, at least for Team Melli that is the case.”

For years, Taremi formed part of a stable three-man IR Iran attack alongside Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh under Carlos Queiroz, but it was the likes of scorers Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Ghayedi and two-assist provider Saman Ghoddos who made the difference in the team’s opening match in Qatar 2023.

“The head coach has told us every player will be fielded at some point; this is the most united team we have had. You can see that from the way the substitutes celebrate after goals.

“We are not always playing with two forwards, we have many patterns that we are following based on the coach’s instructions and there is no specific way we always line up.”

Having spent the 2018-19 season representing Qatar Stars League side Al Gharafa, Taremi took a moment to compliment the hosts on becoming the first team to reach the Round of 16, after two wins from two in Group A.

“I had a very good experience in Qatar, they are defending champions, and they have great players. So, I would like to congratulate them on qualifying to the next round.

In turn, Hong Kong, China defender Helio warned his side against the pace of their upcoming opponents, while reflecting on his time on the sidelines as he recovered from injury.

“Tomorrow we are facing one of the best teams in Asia,” said Helio.

“We played against Iran twice in recent years, we know how fast they are and how quickly they can attack. We have been preparing for that in training and we hope we can give them a tough time, but we will try our best to get points.”

“I have been in the squad for eight years, so being injured was frustrating, but there are still two matches and I am excited and will hope to remain fit for both. Coming back from injury after two weeks, I know the other defenders are doing well and I respect them. But I will try my best to prove myself and fight for my spot.”

While 150th ranked Hong Kong, China are the lowest ranked team in the tournament, their upcoming opponents are the second highest, behind Japan, with Team Melli sitting 21st in the most recent FIFA rankings, but that will not stop coach Jorn Andersen’s men from being adventurous.

“We played Iran in Hong Kong and in Bahrain. Earlier we would play a defensive game and just try to hold. But under Jorn, we have changed a bit and try to press a lot more. The team has also changed a lot and we expect a great match.”

By:Nadeem Faisal Baiga