In the round of 16 action at Abdullah bin Khalifa Stadium, Syria, making their first appearance in the knockout stage of the Asian Cup, will face Iran on Wednesday.
Iran finished top of Group C, securing a 2-1 victory against the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in their last match. On the other hand, Syria qualified as one of the best third-place teams, defeating India 1-0 in their previous encounter.
Iran has qualified for the knockout stage of the Asian Cup for the eighth consecutive time. They have extended their unbeaten run in the group stage to 23 matches.
This is the third time in the last four Asian Cups that Iran has finished the group phase with a 100% record. They are unbeaten in 16 consecutive matches in all competitions.
Iran has not lost to an Asian opponent in almost two years. Their last defeat against an Asian team was against South Korea in March 2022.
While Iran has been successful in the group stage, they have struggled in single-elimination games. They have only advanced beyond the opening Asian Cup knockout fixture once in their last four attempts.
Since their 1-0 defeat against the USA in the 2022 World Cup group stage, Iran has conceded the opening goal in three matches but managed to come back and secure positive results each time.
Under the leadership of Amir Ghalenoei, Iran has scored in every competitive fixture since the 2022 World Cup.
Syria showed great determination in their last match, scoring the winning goal with less than 15 minutes remaining to keep their Asian Cup hopes alive.
Defensively, Syria has been disciplined, conceding just one goal in three matches, which is their fewest ever in the group phase of this competition.
Syria has not played in a tournament knockout fixture since winning the 2012 West Asian Football Federation Championship.
Since their 5-0 defeat against Japan in November, Syria has only conceded one goal or less in four of their last five matches, with only one loss during that period.
The last time Syria defeated Iran was in May 1973, and they have been unable to score in their last four meetings against them.
Sadegh Moharrami will miss the rest of the tournament after rupturing his ACL in Iran’s victory over the UAE. Ramin Rezaeian replaced him in the squad.
Shojae Khalilzadeh and Ali Gholizadeh returned to the starting lineup for Iran after missing their second match due to injuries. Ehsan Hajsafi, the captain, earned his 140th cap, putting him nine away from the all-time record.
Mehdi Taremi scored two goals in their last match, equalling Mehdi Ghayedi for the most goals in the Iranian squad in this competition.
Syria made two changes in their final group match, with Alaa Al Dali and Mouhamad Anez coming on as substitutes. Ammar Ramadan and Mahmoud Al Aswad were replaced.
Iran’s possible starting lineup:
Rezaeian, Kanaanizadegan, Hosseini, Hajsafi;
Mohebi, Taremi, Ghayedi;
Syria’s possible starting lineup:
Weiss, Ousou, Krouma, Ajan;
Al Aswad, Elias, Ham, Anez;
Prediction: Iran 2-0 Syria
While Syria has shown their ability to compete with strong teams in the region, we believe Iran’s experience and ability to handle pressure situations will give them the edge in this match.