IRAN VALIANTLY BATTLES YUGOSLAVIA
SAINT ETIENNES (FRANCE) IPS 15TH JUNE
By a Special Correspondent
The Iranian team played a hard-fought game against the well-known and heavy favorite, Yugoslavia. Despite their 1-0 defeat, scored by Sinista Mihalovic from a free kick just outside the penalty area, the Iranian team played a very clean and organized game. For the most part, all Iranian players played well in their respective positions, especially the defense; the same defense that has been the teamís weakness. Unlike in previous matches, this weakness was nowhere to be found.
To the dismay of all Iranian fans, Iranís dexterous goalkeeper and team captain, Ahmadreza Abedzadeh, missed the game due to surgery; his absence proved costly for the team. Abedzadehís replacement, 23-year-old Nima Nakisa, tried valiantly to hold the Yugoslavs at bay, but his inexperience and lack of international experience were no match for his competitors. Abedzadehís return is unknown, leaving Iranian fans with concern. Overall, the Iranian team performed well; some would say to the level of some of the highly regarded, world-class teams.
More than 36.000 people, at least one third of them Iranians who had come from as far as the United States and Australia, as well as from Iran itself, flocked to this southern French city and noisily cheered their team.
Leading French and European sports dailies praised the Iranian team. "If the Yugoslav were thinking to give a lesson to Iran, they were greatly mistaken from stadium, or of times, for, even thought yesterday Azizi and other his teamsters lost one to nil to Yugoslavia, they proven their superior cohesion and mastering of the round ball no one would expect them", said L'Equipe, France largest sports daily.
It turned out to be a very difficult game for Yugoslavia, quite contrary to pre-game statements made by members of their team who were quoted as saying they would score "one goal per minute". The Iranian players showed they are physically in good shape and ready to take on any team. Iran clearly controlled the first half of the game.
The Yugoslavian team left the field at the end of the first half looking quite tired. They had many opportunities to score, but failed to capitalize on them. While Yugoslavia quickly found out that the Iranian team is significantly stronger than first thought, their coach made a wise decision to bring in three young and energetic players in the second half, thereby rejuvenating their team. In spite of this, the difference in the game was a free kick just outside of the 18-meter box upon which Yugoslavia capitalized.
Despite the advantage handed to them with the absence of Abedzadeh, the Yugoslavian team failed to create any dangerous situations for the inexperienced Nakisa. Overall, it was not a difficult game for the young man. However, the reverse was true for Yugoslavia as Iran pummeled their goalkeeper with several great shots, none of which yielded a goal.
It was completely noticeable that Jalal Talebi, the new Iranian coach ĺ himself a brilliant defender in the past for Iran ĺ has placed his coaching emphasis and team practices on Iranís defense. Unlike previous matches, the team played well and did not allow holes in the defense. However, it was also noticeable that the offense did not receive as much attention because the forwards were less active and slower than usual.
Iran Yugo page 2
"I'am very pleased with our performance overall", said Mr Talebi after the match. "We did not just go out there and watch them play. We lost on a set piece and there is no shame in that", he observed
Knowing the importance of the three Iranian stars on the offense ĺ Ali Da'i, Khodadad Azizi, and Karim Bagheri ĺ the Yugoslavian team marked each player with two of its own, thereby limiting the trioís effectiveness. Iran, however, clearly demonstrated that it is a good, solid team capable of world-class performances; albeit an amateur one that is capable of creating problems for the professional players of the world. Iranís next game against the United States is an extremely important one.
The U.S. assuredly will take Iran more seriously as a result of Iranís performance against Yugoslavia. Iran can achieve victory against the U.S. team if Jalal Talebi spends some time further strengthening the offense.