Iran will continue its quest for a fourth AFC Asian Cup crown as the Asian powerhouse takes on Oman in a last-16 tie at the Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi on Sunday.
After two easy victories over Yemen (5-0) and Vietnam (2-0), a goalless draw against Iraq on the final day of the group stage saw the Iranians win the Group D, topping Iraqis by a superior goal difference.
Carlos Queiroz will surely rely on his formidable backline as his team is one of the four teams – along with Jordan, Qatar and South Korea – yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
The Portuguese will also hope to have in-form strikers Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi –who scored five goals between them in the group phase – on their best day.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh made his first appearance for the country in the tournament against Iraq, having been sidelined for nearly three month for injury, before being replaced in the second half and the Brighton winger will see competition from the likes of Saman Qoddos and Mehdi Torabi for a place in the starting eleven.
Oman advanced to the Round of 16 as one of the four best third-placed teams, qualifying for the knockout stage for the first time in four appearances.
It is a well-deserved achievement as the Pim Verbeek’s men came through a challenging group.
A lapse in concentration saw them falling to a late 2-1 defeat against Uzbekistan and they produced a gritty performance in the 1-0 loss to Japan.
Omanis saved their best for last as late goals saw them overcome Turkmenistan 3-1, a result which confirmed their knockout stage berth.
The winner of Sunday’s match will face either China or Thailand – which square off earlier earlier in the day – in the quarterfinals.
In the first game of the round, the surprise package of the tournament Jordan plays Vietnam.