We’ll get no favours from Iran, reiterates Robson (2 March 2010)
TEHRAN – Thailand coach Bryan Robson expects Iran to come out fighting in Wednesday's AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2011™ Group E showdown at Azadi Stadium even though Afshin Ghtobi's side have already secured qualification for next year's finals in Qatar.
Thailand must hand a strong Iran team boasting returning playmaker Ali Karimi a rare defeat at Azadi Stadium to make sure of joining the Iranians in April's draw with anything less opening the door for Jordan and Singapore, who meet in Amman.
Iran currently top the group four points clear of Thailand and Singapore with Robson's side holding a potentially crucial superior goal difference, with Jordan a point adrift.
“They’ve called up their best experienced players. I’ve watched a couple of DVDs of their matches, they’re really strong and l would like to reiterate that it won’t be an exhibition game for the Iranians,” said Robson (pictured).
“They are very relaxed that they have already qualified for the Asian Cup and in order to meet the expectations of Iran's fanatic football lovers. They’ll come to the pitch to prove they’re the strongest team in the group.
“I’m glad we can still determine who the runners-up of the group will be. We’ll make our best effort to make it to the finals, but in my opinion all three teams have equal chance of progressing.”
Karimi's return headlines a strong Iran squad selected by Ghtobi with Osasuna duo Javad Nekounam and Masoud Shojaei also included alongside returning goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour.
“Thailand is a hard-working team, they are here to strive to qualify for the final round of the tournament in Qatar,” said Ghtobi.
“But we won’t give up and I am sure Ali Karimi’s return will be a real morale booster for the rest of my lads.”
Steel Azin's Karimi stepped down from the national team last summer, but accepted Ghotbi's offer to return.
“I was not planning to return, but Ghotbi asked me to think twice about this and I was eventually persuaded to join my good old friends in the national squad,” said former Bayern Munich ace Karimi.
“I am hopeful my presence can help the team regain the Asian Cup title after 35 years.”