IR Iran veteran Masoud Shojaei has expressed his hope of winning the AFC Asian Cup for his nation after a gap of 43 years as Team Melli face Japan in the first semifinal of the competition on Monday.
Iran won the last of their three Asian Cup titles back in 1976 and has a hit a barren patch since stretching to 43 years during the 17th edition of the tournament underway in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, they are firm favourites to lift the title this time around.
“We are all very hopeful that we can achieve success, taking into consideration that the UAE and Qatar are good teams and Japan are always one of the favourites,” said Shojaei who has captained the country on countless occasions including at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Asian Cup semi-finalists Iran train in Abu Dhabi
“But we all hope that after 43 years, we can do this task. We have to beat Japan, but after that we hope we can bring happiness and pride to our people. As I always joke with my teammates, we are hoping we can bring our little friend, the Asian Cup trophy, home,” said the veteran midfielder.
The Tractor Sazi player knows he and his teammates will have to fully concentrate on their semifinal opponents Japan if they are to keep their hopes alive come February 1 when the final will take place at the Zayed Sports City Stadium in Abu Dhabi.
“I’m very happy and proud to be here and we are fully prepared for the game. We can’t wait for the game to start and there’s no doubt it’s going to be one of the best games of the tournament. We will put all the difficulties behind us and we’re happy and proud to play in the semifinal,” said the 34-year-old.
View this post on Instagram
“Our only target is to stay focused and prepare for the next game. We take everything game-by-game and we’re only thinking about our next game against Japan. That’s all that matters for us.”
“Of course, our coach [Carlos Queiroz] is thinking about the analysis of other games, but we’re only thinking about this game. We have played some good teams at this tournament but we haven’t thought about games that we have played before,” he said.
“We are paying attention to every detail. Qatar and UAE are great teams and they’re going forward, but we’re only thinking about our own game against Japan and we’re fully focused on that,” he added.