Wed, Oct 11, 2006 - Page 19 News List

A `more confident' Taiwan hoping for at least a draw

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's Cheng Yung-jen, right, fights for the ball with South Korea's Cho Jae-jin during an AFC Asian Cup qualifying soccer match at the Suwon World Cup stadium in Seoul, South Korea, on Sept. 6.

PHOTO: EPA

Taiwanese soccer fans will be looking to recover some pride tonight as the 2007 Asian Cup qualifiers continue with a formidable opponent in the shape of Iran. Kickoff at the Taipei City Municipal Stadium on Dunhua N Road is at 6pm.

After its 8-0 flogging by South Korea in the last qualifier, Taiwan fell to 154th in the FIFA world rankings. Iran is ranked 43.

In a pre-game press conference yesterday, both teams were confident of putting on a good show.

Iran coach Amir Ghalenoiee said a victory was important to retain second spot in Group B, which also includes South Korea and Syria. After four games, South Korea leads the group with 10 points. Iran has 8 points and Syria 4; Taiwan trails with no points.

Iran has brought some of its best players to Taiwan, Ghalenoiee said, four of whom are Europe-based, including Ali Karimi of Bayern, Mehdi Mahdavikia of Hamburg, Rahman Rezaei of Messina and Adianik Teymourian of Bolton.

Taiwan coach Imai Toshiaki said the team was expecting a tough battle with Iran.

He said the Iranian squad was different to the one Taiwan played in Tehran in February. Taiwan had to work hard to match the quality of Iran's professional line-up, he said.

Imai added that Taiwan has gained from playing more experienced teams over the last two months.

"The team is more confident than it was in February, and has arranged some excellent players for the game," he said.

"The score is still 0-0," Imai said, "The situation is not hopeless."

Toshiaki added that unlike baseball, the line between offense and defense in soccer is fluid. Each player had to keep both in mind, he said.

Taiwan's Feng Pao-hsing (馮保興) told the press conference that Imai had made several changes to the line-up and that he was hoping that the Taiwanese could hold the Iranians to a draw.

Feng is expected to mark Mehdi Mahdavikia in tonight's match, and he said he would do everything he could to prevent his opponent from scoring.

Iran failed to reach the final 16 in this year's World Cup in Germany. Ghalenoiee replaced Branko Ivankovic to lead the team following that disappointment.

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