It was 1976 and Iran had just won its third consecutive Asian Cup title after defeating Kuwait 1-0 at Azadi Stadium in Tehran with the lone goal coming from legendary footballer Ali Parvin.
Over 100,000 Iranian supporters at Azadi Stadium celebrated with their beloved national team, commonly known as Team Melli.
Since 1976, a lot has changed with Asia’s biggest tournament. For starters, the 1976 edition of the Asian Cup had only six participants.
Over the years the tournament increased from ten to twelve teams. In 2004, sixteen countries participated in the Asian Cup for the first time.
The 2019 Asian Cup in UAE will feature twenty-four teams.
Iran of course is one of the twenty-four teams that will be competing. But one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the fact that Iran has not been able to win the Asian Cup.
Iranian supporters are crazy and passionate for their national team and are hoping that the forty-two-year drought will finally come to an end in January 2019.
It comes as no surprise that war in the 1980s put a dent in the success of Team Melli.
But despite the recovery, even the golden generation of Iranian football was unable to bring home the Asian Cup.
The likes of Ali Daei, Karim Bagheri, and Khodadad Azizi were ousted on penalties by Saudi Arabia in the semifinals in 1996, the last time the tournament was played in UAE.
Four years later it was a golden goal from South Korea that finished off Iran in Lebanon in the quarterfinals. In 2004, Iran fell in the semifinals to hosts China on penalties in a controversial match.
In 2007 and 2011, South Korea once again was the thorn in the side of Team Melli as the Taegeuk Warriors needed penalties to defeat Iran in 2007 and extra time in 2011.
In both matches, Iran was unable to score.
Four years ago, in a Land Down Under, Iran had a 1-0 lead on neighbors Iraq in the quarterfinals and was in full control.
But once again controversy was at the forefront as Iran were reduced to ten men after a ridiculous second yellow card was given to defender Mehrdad Pouladi.
Iran fought back valiantly on two occasions in extra time to force a 3-3 draw. Once again, Iran was unable to win a penalty shootout.
Team Melli’s golden generation was unable to win the Asian Cup, but can Carlos Queiroz’s Team Melli finally bring home the Asian Cup trophy to eighty-million Iranians?
Iran impressed everyone after an impressive display at the 2018 World Cup in Russia that consisted of a 1-0 win over Morocco, a hard-fought loss to Spain, and a valiant draw with Portugal.
The fact of the matter is that Iran has what it takes to win the 2019 Asian Cup.
But over the years controversial refereeing from the Asian Football Confederation has stepped in on more than one occasion to rob Team Melli of possibly winning more than one Asian Cup.
Iran can win the Asian Cup, but the Team Melli players must play hard and refrain from retaliating.
In every match, Iran will be playing against twelve men. And the only way to overcome this obstacle is to play hard and be smart (shut up).
This article was originally published on nationsleaguefootball.wordpress.com