Good news from Iranian footballers that play abroad – nicknamed Legionnaires – again successful in European leagues, as we saw on 4-6 November 2016. All players are member of Team Melli, the National football team of Iran that currently leads Group A of Asian zone of 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifications.
After his amazing goal that helped Rostov beating Bayern in UEFA Champions League, Sardar Azmoun scored in the week 15 of RFPL-Russian Football Premier League. The young cheetah gave his side the advantage at 41′ and then Rostov won 2:0 against Anzhi Makhachkala. 20-years-old Saeid Ezzatollahi did not enter this game, and according to rumours he could move to another European club in the incoming transfer window, like Azmoun.
In the week 14 of Eredivisie AZ Alkmaar were already beating 4:1 their opponent, Heracles Almelo, with about 10 minutes remaining until the final whistle: Alireza Jahanbakhsh came in the game at 83′ replacing Muren (who had scored a double), and after nine minutes scored AZ 5th goal with no celebration; later his coach Van den Brom expressed his happiness for the Iranian talent more than for the victory, adding that he had previously agreed with Jahanbakhsh that he was benched. The rocket goal resulted in a great solution!
Iranian duo in Greece was impressive in the week 12 of Souper Ligka Ellada, too: Panionios took the advantage at 71′ against Panathinaikos thanks to Team Melli number 10 Karim Ansarifard assisted by his compatriot Masoud Shojaei. Ansarifard celebrated the goal showing to TV cameras the jersey of his young teammate Vasilis Patsatzoglou, who recently had surgery due to a bad injury. After Ansarifard’s replacement, in the injury time Shojaei was close to score but soon after the rivals equalized.
4-6 November 2016 weekend was a no-stop series of great news about Iranian footballers that play abroad – those who are nicknamed Legionnaires – on Facebook, Twitter, Goal.com and other websites. Maybe we never had so many talents from the Persian country, able to be so impressive in a couple of days: about 15 years ago there were Iranian players in German and Austrian Bundesliga, Italian Serie A, Belgian Jupiler Pro League, but it seems that the current generation has already marked a record! Let’s see together.
Heerenveen lost 3:1 after a great rival comeback, but in week 12 of Eredivisie another Iranian assisted his teammate in a very important match on Sunday: AZ Alkmaar v Ajax. Although already leading after thirteen minutes, AZ conceded two goals in the second half until at 79′ Alireza Jahanbakhsh on the right side received the ball making a superb stop and then passed to Weghorst who scored the equalizer.
From Netherlands we fly to Russia for the week 13 of RFPL-Russian Football Premier League. With a back-heel Sardar Azmoun assisted Erokhin at 26′ as Rostov took the advantage against Arsenal Tula. The Iranian youngster – who previously scored in UEFA Champions League against giants Atletico Madrid – ten minutes later beat the rival goalkeeper with a successful header, helping his club to win with the final 4:1 result. 20-years-old Saeid Ezzatollahi did not enter this game.
In Russia again an Iranian talent passed the golden ball in the match between Terek Grozny and Zenit St. Petersburg: left wing back Milad Mohammadi (born 1993) ran from the left side and assisted Balaj, whose double gave a surprising victory to Terek. Mohammadi showed an excellent performance despite an injured wrist.
Last but not least. After one month Panionios returned to victory, defeating PAOK in week 10 of Souper Ligka Ellada. Iranian number 10 Karim Ansarifard scored the winner goal at 14′ assisted by Ben Nabouhane, inspired by Masoud Shojaei action.
Let’s see the results of the 7th week of Persian Gulf Pro League 1395/96, that took place before Team Melli clashes against Uzbekistan and South Korea in order to qualify to 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
The battle between Tractorsazi Tabriz and Persepolis Tehran for the leadership of the tournament continues: both team won their matches, but Tractor have a better goal difference thanks to the best attack of the league (12 goal scored, 4 conceded).
Amir Ghalenoei’s boys defeated 3:0 FC Mashhad with a successful penalty by Iranpourian, followed by Hatami’s and late Kiani’s goals; Siahjamegan attempted dangerously twice to beat Akhbari, who saved at 80′ and one minute later with the help of the crossbar.
A double by Mehdi Taremi allowed Persepolis to conquer 3 points away, after Sepahan have equalized with Ehsan Hajsafi: so Isfahanis lost two positions in the league table.
40-years-old Gholam Reza Enayati proved once again to have determination more than many other youngsters: the all-time Persian Gulf Pro League top scorer headed successfully the ball crossed from the left by Ahmad Hassanzadeh, in order to collect Saba Qom first victory; Saipa efforts were denied by rival goalkeeper Hamed Lak (who saved at 66′ a powerful kick by Siamak Kouroshi) and by the crossbar, where ended Ali Gholizadeh last-minute rocket.
Paykan were leading 0-2 thanks to a double by Nigerian forward Godwin Mensha, but coach Sirous Pourmousavi spurred Esteghlal Khuzestan: the defending champions found the equalizer in the injury time with a nice dribbling and shot by Hassan Beit Saeid, and a ball accidentally deflected by Levon Hayrapetyan; it seemed to end with a tie, but Amir Hossein Sadeghi scored Paykan winner just before the final whistle.
Gostaresh Foolad have not yet succeded in scoring, despite some good occasion inspired by playmaker Daryoush Shojaeian: Foolad Khuzestan veteran goalkeeper Vahid Talebloo saved shots by Naghizadeh and Khalegifar, freezing the goalless result.
The 7th week of the season welcomed the first victory to Esteghlal Tehran, too: Blues thanked their supporters at Azadi stadium beating 2-1 Zob Ahan Isfahan. Alireza Mansourian allowed again Bakhtyar Rahmani in the line-up, after being sidelined during the Tehran derby: before halftime the Iranian Kurdish midfielder won a penalty kick, converted by Omid Ebrahimi. In the opening of the second half Ali Ghorbani headed on goal a cross from the right by Vouria Ghafouri. Isfahanis reaction came soon with Mohammad Nejad Mehdi‘s header, deflected to corner by Mehdi Rahmati; then Morteza Tabrizi scored for Zob Ahan, after another Rahmati’s save on Jerry Bengtson’s attempt.
Incredible tie gained by Padideh Mashhad at home: in the first half Mohammad Shadkam sent the ball past Shahab Gordan after five minutes, then Mohammad Reza Pourmohammad scored with a free kick the second goal for Sanat Naft Abadan, whereas Padideh hit the crossbar after a place kick. At 77′ Mashhadi coach Mohammad Reza Mohajeri replaced defender Fariborz Gerami with 22-years-old striker Mohammad Ali Mardani who scored in less than a minute! Coach Nader Dastneshan’s guys attacked one more time so that Shadkam beat Gordan once again with an accidental assist by Karim Ahmadi. Padideh were losing 1-3 when referee Khorshidi conceded a penalty, missed by Younes Shakeri that sent the ball over the crossbar. In 5 minutes injury time, Mashhadis secured one point thanks to Mohammad Reza Nassehi’s hit and Mardani second goal.
The last game of the week was won by Naft Tehran, so that climbed on third place of the Persian Gulf Pro League defeating 2-1 Mashinsazi Tabriz: guests missed the opportunity to take the advantage as a ball retrieved by superb Andranik Teymourian was launched to Mehrdad Bayrami, whose shot was deflected by Naft goalkeeper Milad Farahani. At 15′ Iman Mob’Ali corner kick assisted the successful header by Amir Arsalan Motahari; Ali Daei’s club was dangerous as Mohammad Ghazi rocket ended out, and then defender Hamed Pakdel prevented another goal after umpteenth corner kick for Naft. In the opening of the second half Ali Daei claimed a penalty beacause of a contact between Motahari and Georgian back Kakhaber Kakashvili. Few minutes later the referee Ahmad Salehi declared offside a goal scored by Edson Henrique, assisted by Teymourian’s free kick: the Brazilian defender made a heavy defensive mistake and Ghazi beat easily Spanish goalkeeper Manu Fernandez. Ali Daei became enraged at 87′ as mr. Salehi conceded a controversial penalty due to a contrast between Saman Nariman Jahan and Milad Fakhreddini: Payam Sadeghian converted to goal without problem just before final whistle.
Padideh Mashhad 3-3 Sanat Naft Abadan [WATCH goals & highlights] Goals: 6′ and 84′ Mohammad Shadkam (SAN), 33′ Mohammad Reza Pourmohammad (SAN), 77′ and 93′ Mohammad Ali Mardani (PAD), 90′ Mohammad Reza Nassehi (PAD) Bookings: 93′ Mohammad Ali Mardani (PAD) Referee: Ashkan Khorshidi
Week 7 of Persian Gulf Pro League has just ended, so Iran Team Melli head coach Carlos Queiroz named 17 players for a training camp in Armenia, in order to face Uzbekistan (6 Oct) and South Korea (11 Oct) in FIFA World Cup qualifying games.
The Portuguese coach did not invite Iranian footballers that play abroad – better known as Legionnaires – since they will join the National squad after their league matches.
The most awaited match of the week of course was Shahravard, the Tehran derby, refereed by Alireza Faghani: without injured Vahid Amiri, Persepolis shared one point with arch-rivals Esteghlal [read the full report]. Tractorsazi took advantage of the tie, reaching the Reds at top of the table, thanks to their successful trip at Zob Ahan home: Sina Ashouri scored the winner few minutes after Lebanese midfielder Ali Hamam had equalized.
A late goal by Mohammadreza Khanzadeh prevented a home defeat for FC MashhadSiahjamegan, denying what could be Saba Qom first win of the season. Mehdi Torabi is the new leader of Saipa, skilled in scoring vital goals in the final minutes (as in the previous game): the 22-years-old midfielder responded to Chimba leading goal for Gostaresh Foolad: the Brazilian striker is the only player to score among his squad. Sepahan beat away Mashinsazi, climbing standings and becoming 3rd: Isfahanis risked a late equalizer, after Ehsan Hajsafi missed a penalty at 86′, and two minutes later Saman Nariman Jahan hit the right goalpost.
With a goalless draw against Paykan at Shohada Stadium, Naft Tehran lose one position in the ranking. Esteghlal Khuzestan showed once more a very offensive attitude, taking the advantage against Sanat Naft, but again they could not end a match with a clean sheet, proving to be the most weak defence of the tournament.
In the last game of the week a penalty scored by Sasan Ansari helped Foolad Khuzestan to defeat Padideh and to leave the bottom. Persian Gulf Pro League 1395/96 identifies her champions best candidate in Tractorsazi and Persepolis, since both clubs are still unbeaten after 6 weeks. On the other side, Esteghlal Tehran proved to be ready to face high level opponents: Mansourian’s squad has improved despite a bad start, and maybe new arrival Leandro Padovani will make better the Blues defence.
No one scored in 83rd Shahravard, the Tehran derby, in week 6 of Persian Gulf Pro League 1395/96. Alireza Faghani was appointed as referee, thanks to his international experience: he refereed 2015 Asian Cup final and men’s Olympic football final at Rio 2016. A victory could be vital for both teams, but for completely different reasons. Persepolis wanted to strenghten their top leading after the last-week tie with Tractorsazi, the latter only two points under Branko Ivankovic’s club; instead, third-bottom Esteghlal searched for their first win in this difficult season, and coach Ali Reza Mansourian knew that a defeat meant a goodbye.
No surprises in the start lining ups, except for Blues as Bakhtyar Rahmani was benched; Reds squad was without injured Vahid Amiri, while Ramin Rezaeian watched the game from the bench since he has come back recently following a short spell in Turkey.
Few hours before the match, it was reported a rumour from Persepolis players, who said that Esteghlal hired a wizard in order to win the Shahravard. Obviously on bleachers hooligans have started to provoke each other already previous the kick-off.
Special guest Carlos Queiroz, who watched the match with his technical staff of Iran Team Melli.
Persepolis had a good start, attacking immediately with Mosalman and Alipour, causing their opponents to foul: after only 12 minutes Omid Ebrahimi received a yellow card due to his foul on Ahmadzadeh. Six minutes later a dangerous right-footed shot by Mehdi Taremi was rejected by Mkoyan shoulder: the Aghaye Gol (top scorer) of the last season at 23′ threatened again his rivals and was fouled by Farshid Bagheri just outside of Esteghlal penalty area; the following free kick ended on Blues defenders. When Farshid Esmaeili fell down after a touch by Mosalman, Mansourian became angry, protesting beside the pitch. But again Taremi conquered a free kick, this time from 65 feet (20 metres): Omid Alishah direct shot found the opponents wall.
The mood difference of the two coaches was clear: Mansourian continuously calling his guys; Branko queitly watching the game.
With 5 minutes before half time, Vouria Ghafouri woke up and dribbled two Reds on the right of Persepolis penalty area, however there was no teammate to benefit from his pass; Esteghlal advanced one more time with Ebrahimi, tackled by Kamyabinia, but Faghani said to keep continuing to play.
In the opening of 2nd half Kaveh Rezaei scared Ghermez-ha fans, as he attempted twice to score in front of Beiranvand, since the goalkeeper has lost the ball after the first save. Esteghlal returned determined from the break, with Ghafouri and Khosro Heydari incursions on the right side, in order to cross for Rezaei: at 54′ S. Jalal Hosseini headed away, at 56′ Jaber Ansari did not succeed in a bicycle kick.
After one hour of game, Alishah found Taremi, whose header finished over the crossbar. A few later Mosalman passed a golden ball to the Bushehr-born forward, who shot from the right but Mehdi Rahmati deflected the ball. Branko replaced injured Mohammad Ansari with Oleksiy Polyanskyi, and the Reds attempted again to score by head (Ahmadzadeh) and left-foot (Alipour) with no accuracy.
On the other side, Farshid Bagheri crossed for Rezaei, who wasted another opportunity heading out on the left. With ten minutes remaining, Mansourian subbed in Ali Ghorbani instead of Jaber Ansari (under expectation performance): both teams became nervous seeking for the winning goal, and a smoke screen appeared from bleachers. Alishah was hit by a bottle lauched from hooligans, before he could kick from the corner, and was replaced by Nourollahi.
In the injury time Polyanskyi scored, burning Azadi stadium, but Faghani estinguished the flames because Ukrainan player was caught offside.
1 Beiranvand; 4 S. J. Hosseini, 15 M. Ansari (69′ #22 Polyanskyi), 13 Mahini; 18 Rabi Khah, 11 Kamyabinia, 77 Mosalman, 10 Ahmadzadeh, 3 Alishah (90+1′ #8 Nourollahi); 70 Alipour (85′ #80 Pryyomov), 9 Taremi Head coach Branko Ivankovic
1 Rahmati; 33 M. Hosseini, 3 Robson, 15 Mkoyan; 21 Ghafouri, 6 Ebrahimi, 14 F. Bagheri, 88 Esmaeili (90+2′ #74 Haghdoust); 2 Heydari, 11 J. Ansari (81′ #17 A. Ghorbani), 9 K. Rezaei Head coach Ali Reza Mansourian
Bookings: 12′ Ebrahimi (EST), 21′ Alipour (PER), 68′ F. Bagheri (EST), 77′ Kamal Kamyabinia, 88′ Heydari (EST)
Persian Gulf Pro League 1395/96 comes back, after a 28-days break: in the meanwhile Team Melli played two 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification matches, beating 2-0 Qatar and drawing without goals in China. Week 5 was full of ties, except for the games scheduled on Friday both ended with victories.
FC Mashhad surprised home supporters at Bonyan Diesel stadium and obtained 3 points. In the first half Luciano “Chimba” Pereira tried twice to beat Nasseri, but goalkeeper was very responsive to Brazilian shot and header. Gostaresh Foolad were again dangerous with Khalatbari and Magno Batista, but their efforts were not rewarded: Ayoub Kalantari sent a long pass to Seifollahi, who scored a lob goal in the injury time.
The match between Oil clubs (in Farsi “naft” means oil) was won by Ali Daei’s guys, although guest team goalkeeper Hassan Houri made many spectacular saves on Naft Tehran attacks: the Abadani captain could not prevent home advantage when a perfect free kick by Iman Mob’Ali assisted Croatian defender Igor Prahic’s header. Sanat Naft Abadan equalized with Hakim Nassari, who exploited a defensive mistake; but Mohammad Ghazi scored a very nice goal, rotating 270° ahead of three opponents and shooting low.
Dangerous atmosphere in Tabriz, on the pitch and on the bleachers: after the final whistle, Tractorsazi hooligans launched rocks and bottles on Persepolis players and staff: on 24 August Tabrizi hooligans did the same during a friendly game with Paykan, then suspended. A delegate from Iranian Football Federation pressed charges against head of Tractor supporters, and home team coach Amir Ghalenoei argued with a soldier. About the match. Persepolis avoided the defeat, especially thanks to goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who saved Iranpourian header (7′) and twice Soroush Rafiei‘s attempts (33′ header, 69’ close shot). On the other side Mehdi Taremi missed the opportunity to score a heavy goal when at 5′ he ran past Mohammadi and Akhbari, but a tackle by Shafiei blocked his attempt. With this goalless draw, Persepolis and Tractorsazi remain – respectively – on top and 2nd.
Sepahan were not able to win against Paykan, risking a home defeat, even though hitting twice the crossbar: with Malian defender Moussa Coulibaly after 15 minutes of game, and Alimohammadi at 55′. Paykan coach Majid Jalali should be proud about his captain, Mohammad Sadegh Barani, who stole the ball and assisted Siamak Nemati’s left-footed goal, and then was himself close to score. In the second half Abdollah Veisi chose Hossein Papi to replace Fazeli, and the winger thanked his coach scoring six minutes later with a powerful shot.
One point shared by Padideh and Esteghlal Khuzestan as both clubs did not score. Best attempts came by Mashhadi team: after a corner kick, at 34′ captain Reza Nasehi quickly sent the ball on the right goalpost; at 56′ Moein Abbasian‘s left-footed free kick hit the crossbar.
Morteza Tabrizi is in good shape, after taking part in Team Melli training camp in Italy: the 25-years-old attacking midfielder scored Zob Ahan leading just before halftime. Short after squads came back to the pitch, Divsalar received his second yellow card, leaving 10-men Saba Qom; but Samad Marfavi added a forward, subbing in Karim Eslami instead of Abtahi. Zob Ahan goalkeeper Mazaheri had to face a new offensive tactic, and saved a close header by Hassanzadeh at 73′: two minutes later he could not prevent his equalizer, dribbling Nejad Mehdi and Mohammadzadeh.
Four goals, two scored by each side, one point shared by Foolad Khuzestan and Saipa Karaj. Very good performance by Alessandro Felipe Oltramari, who maintained a clean sheet until he got injured, with Saipa leading thanks to Hosseinzadeh’s goal. The Brazilian goalie was replaced by Fallahzadeh, that made vital saves despite a double by Abdollah Nasseri: the second goal at 92′ seemed to end the match, but referee Salehi had ordered 9-minutes injury time! Five minutes later youngster Mehdi Torabi (born 1994) took the ball on the right, dribbling two Foolad defenders, and his shot secured the draw at Ghadir stadium.
On Sunday the last match of the week 5 was played at Azadi Stadium. Esteghlal Tehran took the advantage after seven minutes: Khosro Heydari from the right crossed for Kaveh Rezaei, whose first header was deflected by Manu Fernandez on the post, and the forward headed the ball into the net. The Spanish goalkeeper saved two lob shots, both attempted by Farshid Esmaeili. Mashinsazi frightened the Blues at 35′, because of Payam Sadeghian‘s shot from outside the penalty area, that was rejected by the right goalpost. Even if Esteghlal were continuously attacking with Ghafouri and Heydari, they did not succeed, and Kakhaber Kakashvili assisted Saman Nariman Jahan’s header, that beat Rahmati. A late attempt by Jaber Ansari was saved again by Manu, securing the 1-1 result. Esteghlal have not yet won any game in this season, and the next week will be the last chance for Alireza Mansourian: chairman Reza Eftekhari claimed “After Tehran derby [against Persepolis] we will take a decision about the coach“.
Nekounam spent 6 years in LaLiga playing in Osasuna, most of them with compatriot Masoud Shojaei. In his first season in Pamplona he helped his club to reach UEFA Cup semi-finals, and Spanish supporters still remember his late goal at 120′ against Bordeaux in 2nd leg of Round of 32.
After a couple of years in Esteghlal Tehran and Al Kuwait – following his excellent performances in FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 – he returned to Osasuna in Segunda Division as captain, joined by Karim Ansarifard. He played last season between Iran (Saipa Karaj) and Qatar (Al Arabi).
LaLiga All Stars will face an Iranian squad captained obviously by Javad Nekounam. Rumours say that we will see playing again Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Yahya Golmohammadi. Ali Karimi was added to the team, after he denied his appearance.
In Spain the complete list of the squad was announced on 22 August, as you can see below.
LaLiga All Stars
Goalkeepers: Koke Contreras, Leo Franco Defenders: Eric Abidal, Francisco Pavón, Michel Salgado, Joan Capdevila, Fernando Sanz Midfielders: Claude Makélélé, Gaizka Mendieta, David Albelda, Marcos Senna, José Emilio Amavisca, Francesco Coco Strikers: Fernando Morientes, Luis García, Albert Luque
National football team of Iran started on 13 August a 10-days training camp in Italy, to prepare for 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification. During this camp Team Melli will play 2 friendly matches, with SPAL and B Italia, the under-21 Italian Serie B representative team. The first game is scheduled on 19 August in Forlì.
Thursday 19 August – Iran v SPAL
What time is the kick-off? At 4,00 p.m. It is recommended to reach the stadium at least one hour before the game.
Where is the match? In “Tullo Morgagni” Stadium in Forlì city (see the map below)
How much is the ticket? Ticket prices have been published on 17 August by SPAL official website. There are no discounted tickets for this game. The following prices do not include pre-sale.
– Tribuna (for both home and guest supporters, on bleacher) 1 single seat: 10 Euro;
– Curva ospiti (for guest supporters, behind goal posts) 1 single stand: 5 Euro;
– Curva locali (for home supporters, behind goal posts) 1 single stand: 5 Euro.
How can I buy the tickets? Since tickets are named, you have to show to retailer a currently valid ID card or passport when you purchase it.
Where can I find the tickets? You can buy from the ticket offices of the stadium or in the retail stores recognized by SPAL team: the full list of retail stores is avalaible on SPAL official website. It is recommended to buy in advance the tickets, mind the pre-sale option to avoid long queues.
What if I don’t buy a ticket? No problem, you can watch the match live and free on Telestense, a local television broadcasting in Italian.
Very interesting the 4rd week of Persian Gulf Pro League 1395/96, scheduled before a 28-day break in order to train Team Melli for the upcoming qualifiers against Qatar and China. All the matches were played on 11 August, except for FC Mashhad v Foolad Khuzestan scheduled the day after. Carlos Queiroz – head coach of National football team of Iran – issued the list of call-ups before the last game.
The Tabrizi derby was won by Tractorsazi thanks to a double of defender Mohammad Iranpourian, and the red card received at 43′ by rival defender Hamed Pakdel, who had just came back after a suspension; this is the first defeat for neo-promoted Mashinsazi captained by Andranik Teymourian: now Amir Ghalenoei’s guys have the best goal difference (+4). Behnam Berzaei scored a vital goal preventing Esteghlal Tehran losing against Paykan: it is not certain that Ali Reza Mansourian will seat on the Blues bench in case he will not win the next game, maybe he can benefit from the tournement break. Finally Gostaresh Foolad scored their first goal of the season with Luciano “Chimba” Pereira against Zob Ahan: in the second half, Yahya Golmohammadi – back after club suspension – subbed in Morteza Tabrizi, whose header assisted Honduran striker Jerry Bengtson to equilize. Another 1-1 draw was between Saipa and Padideh, so that both clubs are in the middle of the league standings. Again victorious Sanat Naft beating with a goal by Mohammad Shadkam Sepahan, despite the return of Ehsan Hajsafi in the Isfahani side. After three weeks without scoring, Mehdi Taremi sent the ball in the net helping Persepolis to beat Saba and remain on the top with 10 points. Great game in Ahvaz as defending champions Esteghlal Khuzestan tied 2-2 with Ali Daei’s Naft Tehran: guest team took the advantage with Iman Mob’Ali, but Sirous Pourmousavi’s boys performed a come back with Ashour and Beit Saeid, before Ghazi scored with ten minutes remaining. In the last game FC Mashhad – still commonly known as Siahjamegan – were winning with a goal by 20-year-old defender Payam Malekian, but at 87′ a ball handled by Hamid Reza Ali-Asgari inspired a penalty that Ayoub Vali scored twice, because the referee ordered him to repeat, and the match ended 1-1.
Persian Gulf Pro League will restart on 9 September after Team Mellitraining camp in Italy and FIFA World Cup 2018 qualifiers against Qatar and China.