The dominance continued for Iran on 24 January with a 3-0 victory over China in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Asian Cup.
Sardar Azmoun showed why he is one of the most dangerous strikers playing in the Asian Cup as he scored a goal and got an assist in the first half.
China had no answer for Azmoun as he easily outmuscled the Chinese center backs.
Manager Marcello Lippi had no answer as well and even made two substitutions in the first half when his side was down 2-0.
Karim Ansarifard put on the finishing touch late in the second half to give Iran a 3-0 victory.
Next up is a showdown with Japan on 28 January in Al Ain.
Japan squeaked past Vietnam with a 1-0 victory in the quarterfinals and surely Asian football fans must be eager to watch two of Asia’s best square off in the semifinals.
I don’t know how to put it into words but over years it has been unfortunate that Iran and Japan have rarely crossed paths in competitive fixtures, whether it be Asian Cup or World Cup qualifying.
Iran and Japan last met in the Asian Cup in 2004 but there wasn’t a lot of excitement because it was the final match of the group phase and it appeared that both teams were playing not to lose.
This time there will be everything to play for as neither team will want to go home in disappointment.
It is hard to say which team is favored but when looking at stats, Iran has been the better team in this tournament with no goals conceded through five matches.
Japan has not conceded any goals in its last two matches but did struggle in the group phase against Turkmenistan and Oman.
Yet the fact of the matter is that group phase matches don’t matter anymore, and both teams will be looking to execute their game plans.
Japan has won the Asian Cup four times while Iran is looking to end its 43-year drought.
There are rumors that Iranian national team manager Carlos Queiroz might be on his way out after the tournament.
And this is why the Iranians must give everything they have to thank the man who has brought so much joy to Iranian football fans all over the world.
Prediction: Iran 2-1 Japan
This article was originally published on nationsleaguefootball.wordpress.com