Iran ready for Iraq after beating Vietnam

Sardar Azmoun celebrates scoring the second goal in Iran's victory over Vietnam. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019
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Iran ready for Iraq after beating Vietnam

  • Sardar Azmoun at the double as Team Melli continue impressive start.
  • Carlos Queiroz's team to face Iraq on Wednesday to decide which team will top the group.

ABU DHABI: Sardar Azmoun struck twice as Iran sank Vietnam 2-0 to reach the last 16 of the Asian Cup and set a new group-stage win record.
Iran, looking to end a 43-year title drought since last winning Asian football’s most coveted prize, could have scored four or five but for some poor finishing in Abu Dhabi.
“It’s a pity our performance didn’t produce a couple more goals,” Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said. “But winning is the best medicine in football. To win two games and score seven goals — I have to praise my players because I am very demanding.”
Saman Ghoddos and Mehdi Taremi went close for Asia’s top-ranked team before Azmoun rose to head home a Ghoddos cross after 38 minutes.
The Rubin Kazan forward lashed in his third goal of the tournament from the edge of the box 20 minutes from time to give Iran a ninth successive first-round victory dating back to 2007.
Co-favourites with South Korea to lift the Asian Cup, Iran crushed war-torn Yemen 5-0 in their opening Group D game.
They were indebted to goalkeeper Alireza Safar Beiranvand for a courageous save from Nguyen Cong Phuong but were barely ruffled by the southeast Asian champions.
“We just need to relax more,” said Queiroz. “We were anxious going after the third goal, but that final touch will come. Now we must think, feel, eat, drink, do everything to be focused on Iraq.”


KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

Updated 1 min 7 sec ago
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KSA’s martial arts heroine: ‘I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym’

  • Young Saudi triumphant at Open International Tournament despite just two years of training
  • Zahra Al-Qurashi took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi

JEDDAH: Zahra Al-Qurashi never expected to be where she is today: A gold medal winner in full contact kickboxing at the Open International Tournament for Clubs aged just 21. What started out as a gym class two years ago soon turned into a passion, leading to her victory in Amman on Sunday.

“I got into kickboxing by coincidence, as I just wanted to join a gym. I found the class and gave it a try, and decided to keep attending the classes,” she said. “A year ago, I joined Flagboxing Gym, and started training with my coach Grethe (Kraugerud). With her help, I developed my style and I am improving every day.”

Full contact is a discipline of kickboxing where punches and kicks must be delivered to legal areas of the body. According to the World Association for Kickboxing Organizations’ rules, it is legal to attack the front of the head and front and side of the torso, using “ankle-level foot sweeps.” It is prohibited to attack the throat, lower abdomen, back, legs, joints, back of the head and top of the shoulders.

A medal at her first international competition, then, speaks volumes about Al-Qurashi’s tenacity. She took the gold in the women’s 70 kg category, beating Jordanian Heba Wasfi.

“As soon as I entered the ring, everything went blank, I couldn’t hear or see anyone but my opponent, so I don’t really recall hearing my name even,” said Al-Qurashi. “I got a couple of really good kicks and punches, but she was a good opponent. I was in my own zone though, following every move and made sure I didn’t make mistakes.”

Zahra Al-Quraishi, 21, is already a gold medal winner at an international event despite being a virtual rookie in the demanding sport of kickboxing. (Supplied photos)

Hala Al-Hamrani, the owner of Flagboxing Gym in Jeddah, said: “I am over the moon. I have dreamt about this happening for 16 years, ever since I started coaching. My goal was to eventually provide the ladies of this country with an opportunity to compete.”

For approximately two months, Kraugerud, from Norway, oversaw Al-Qurashi’s workouts, adding more sparring, interval training and intense ring practice.

“I’ve had Zahra spar with men, who are bigger and stronger than her, to give her a sense of what to expect in the ring, to give her more confidence and make her mentally prepared,” said Kraugerud. “I was very proud of her as she entered the ring, you could see the respect for the sport reflected in her. We did a really good job at Flag, we really pushed for this together as a team. She’s young, but she’s talented and she will go far.”

Al-Hamrani, a member of the Saudi Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) Federation, added: “We got her ready by providing her with the right practice and training. It’s a dream come true and it’s very overwhelming because it was such a long process for something like this to happen. Zahra is an up-and-coming athlete who hopefully has a long future and I’m extremely excited to see what that future holds.”

Abdul Aziz Julaidan, chairman of the Saudi MMA Federation, hailed the result after a tough bout between the two competitors, and thanked Prince Abdulaziz bin Turki Al-Faisal, chairman of the General Sport Authority, for the support he had given to the team.

Upon returning to her hometown of Jeddah, Al-Qurashi was greeted by her mother. “I was hugging her and crying and mom, being mom, asked if I was crying because I got hit,” she laughed. “That was her way of saying: I’m proud of you.”