The Iranian under-23 national football team has endured its first defeat at the 2016 Asian Football Confederation (AFC) U-23 Championship in Qatar, losing to the hosts.
On Friday, the Iranian side, which started its campaign at the continental sporting event with a 2-0 victory over Syria on January 12, conceded a 2-1 defeat to the Qatari outfit at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha.
Ahmed Alaa opened the scoring for the Qatari football team in the 35th minute. The Persians then took the game to wire to level the score, but were unsuccessful and the match went into the breather with a one-goal lead for Qataris.
Both Asian teams went to great length to score a score after the break, and it was in the 56th minute that Abdelkarim Hassan doubled the lead for the hosts from a left-side corner.
Iran was awarded a penalty in the 69th minute but Rouzbeh Cheshmi, who donned the captain’s armband, failed to place the ball at the back of the opponents’ net.
Midfielder Ali Karimi ultimately scored the consolation goal for Iran on the stroke of the full-time.
“We dominated the game; but at the end they are not going to give any points to better players, rather to the team that scores the higher number of goals,” Iran head coach Mohammad Khakpour said after the match.
He added, “I’m really proud of my captain and the other players because they did their best, and were putting 100 percent of their efforts into the game. Missing penalty shootout is just part of any game. It happens and many great players in the world have missed penalties."
“They played a great game. They sacrificed for each other and that’s good enough for me,” Khakpour noted.
Iran needs to win its final Group A match against China on Monday to book a place in the knock-out round.
The 2016 AFC U-23 Championship started in Doha, Qatar, on January 12, and will run until January 30. A total of 16 teams are competing in the tournament.
Iran’s national under-23 soccer team is pitted against squads from China, Qatar and Syria in Group A.
While Japan, North Korea, Saudi Arabia and Thailand play in Group B, Iraq, South Korea, Uzbekistan and Yemen form Group C. Australia, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam are drawn in Group D.
The top three teams of the 2016 AFC U-23 Championship will qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics men’s soccer tournament in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.