0519 GMT July 03, 2022
Head coach Maryam Irandoost was full of praise for Iran after her team played to a goalless draw against host India on its debut at the AFC Women’s Asian Cup.
India enjoyed the better of the chances in the Group A contest at the D.Y. Patil Stadium in Navi Mumbai and Iran had a solid, determined backline – led by goalkeeper Zohreh Koudaei – to thank for a first point in a major tournament.
The 32-year-old shot stopper, who had saved two spot kicks to lead her team to a shootout victory over Jordan in September for a place in India’s showpiece, denied the host on several occasions, including a one-hand save to keep out Dangmei Grace’s point-blank header in the second half.
Iran’s best chance to score came with 11 minutes into the game, only to see Negin Zandi’s looping header on a set piece bounce off the crossbar.
“We knew the opening match of the tournament was going to be tough. It was a first experience at this level for my team, and we didn’t play any friendlies in the five months leading to competition, so the players were under a bit of stress,” Irandoost said in the post-match press conference.
“Everybody saw that my players worked their socks off to defend the pride of Iran,” said the manger, adding, “We knew India would be a powerful opponent, given its long-time preparation for the event, and it was important for us to leave the pitch with minimum point, that’s why we adopted a defense-counterattack approach for the game.”
Irandoost was also quick to praise “the positive vibes by the Iranian people, which had motivated the players to fight for a decent result.”
Koudaei, meanwhile, echoed her manager’s views, while she promised there will be much more to come from the Iranian debutantes.
“I think we performed well despite the lack of match practice and everyone in the team worked hard to get the result,” said the keeper.
“It was our first appearance at the Women’s Asian Cup and we will work hard to improve our performance and be better in the remaining games.”
Next for Iran is a clash against eight-time champion China – 4-0 winner over Chinese Taipei earlier in the day – on Sunday.
“China is among the best teams in Asia and we’ll have to be fully prepared for the match. Our backline did a good job today and I’m sure, with another heroic contribution from our keeper, we’re capable of keeping a clean sheet against China,” Irandoost said of Sunday’s opponent.