Iran plays archrival Iraq in Amman, capital of Jordan, today, in a battle that could play a massive part in the Asian powerhouse’s fate at the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Having beaten Hong Kong and Cambodia before a 1-0 away defeat against Bahrain, Marc Wilmots’ side sits third in the Group C table, trailing today’s opponent and Bahrain by one point.
Any result other than a victory in today’s fixture could well jeopardize Iran’s chances of booking a place in the next qualification round – which will see eight group winners and four best runners-up battling it out for the four-and-half spots in the 2022 showdown in Qatar.
The last time these two sides met was during a goalless group encounter at the 2019 AFC Asian Cup in Dubai, the UAE.
Today’s game was due to be played in Iraq before the recent unrest in some major cities of the country convinced the international football governing body FIFA and Asian Football Confederation (AFC) to move the game to a neutral venue.
Iran will have to do without second captain Ehsan Hajsafi who was forced out of Iran’s squad before the trip to Amman through injury and was replaced by Persepolis’ in-form winger Mehdi Torabi.
Kaveh Rezaei and Ali Qolizadeh will also hope to play a part today after a run of impressive performances with the Belgian Jupiler League side Charleroi persuaded Wilmots to give them a call-up for the first time during his time as Iran’s head coach.
Should Iraq fail to win, Bahrain, level with Iraq on points, has the opportunity to move top of the group with a victory in Hong Kong in today’s earlier fixture.