These two nations will do battle in the second AFC Asian Cup 2023 semi-final on Wednesday. We look ahead to the clash at Al Thumama Stadium in Doha with our Iran vs Qatar prediction and preview.
Iran vs Qatar: Pre-Match Facts
- The Opta supercomputer predicts that Iran are the most likely side to make it to the 2023 AFC Asian Cup final from this tie, with them defeating host nation Qatar inside 90 minutes across 42.2% of pre-match simulations.
- Iran have won their last six international games against Qatar, including a 1-0 victory in the 2015 AFC Asian Cup group stage. Iran outscored Qatar 11-1 in those six games.
- This is Iran’s ninth AFC Asian Cup semi-final. They have reached the final four more than any other side (ahead of South Korea’s eight appearances). Though they have failed to progress from the semi-final in their last six attempts, stretching back to 1980.
- Qatar have become the ninth team to reach the semi-final of the AFC Asian Cup for two consecutive editions. They have registered the lowest expected goals against tally per game since the 2019 edition (0.6 xGA), while Iran are ranked third with 0.8 xGA per game in that period.
- Qatar have never failed to score a goal in their eight knockout games at the AFC Asian Cup. No other side has scored in 100% of their such games with at least six appearances.
- Iran’s Sardar Azmoun has failed to score in his last three appearances at the AFC Asian Cup, his longest goalless streak in the competition. Though he has made three assists in his last three games, two more than in his first 11 games.
- Qatar’s Akram Afif has created 3.5 chances per game when he started in the AFC Asian Cup (38 chances in 11 starts), more than any other player who started at least seven games since 2007 when Opta started collecting data for the competition.
The second semi-final of the 2023 AFC Asian Cup takes place in Doha on Wednesday, with both sides already knowing who will await them in the final should they progress.
Iran eased through the group stage with victories over United Arab Emirates, Palestine and Hong Kong, with their seven goals coming via six different players – a display of their strength in depth in attacking positions. Star player Mehdi Taremi scored twice in the final group game against UAE before his successful penalty versus Syria in the round of 16 helped them eventually progress after extra-time and a shootout.
Despite Taremi’s suspension for the quarter-finals, Iran beat the tournament favourites Japan 2-1 after going in to half-time behind, thanks to a 55th-minute strike from Mohammad Mohebi before a dramatic winner from Alireza Jahanbakhsh six minutes into added time.
Taremi’s return to the fold cannot be understated. Despite missing the last round, he’s their most prolific shot-taker at this tournament (14 shots) and only Sardar Azmoun (0.64) has a higher non-penalty expected goals per 90 average than him (0.41). As two of the top four scorers in Iran’s national team history, Qatar will need to keep a close eye on the pair.
Meanwhile, right-back Ramin Razaeian has been instrumental in providing service into the box. Leading the team in crosses in open play with 14, Razaeian’s deliveries have been crucial in creating goal-scoring opportunities for Iran. Additionally, his ability to create chances for teammates (8) underscores his importance in Iran’s attacking build-up.
In midfield, Saman Ghoddos emerges as a key metronome, seamlessly orchestrating Iran’s play. Ghoddos’ distribution in the back third has been pivotal in initiating attacks, while his defensive contributions are equally impressive. Ghoddos leads all Iran outfielders for ball recoveries at the tournament (31), showcasing his versatility in both offensive and defensive phases of the game. With two assists to his name, Ghoddos is also among the leading Iran players for expected assists per 90 at the tournament, with his 0.23 average below only Azmoun’s 0.28.
Qatar won all three of their group stage games against Tajikistan, China PR and Lebanon without conceding a single goal. After winning their last-16 tie against Palestine (2-1), the quarter-final match against Uzbekistan saw them fail to win inside 90 minutes for the first time at the 2023 edition. Of course, they eventually battled through extra-time and won a penalty shootout 3-2 to advance to this stage.
Key player Akram Afif has been instrumental in Qatar’s attacking threat. Deployed on the left side, Afif’s ability to cut and dribble inside onto his favoured right foot has been a constant menace for opposing defences. With a team-high 13 chances created and 12 successful take-ons, Afif leads Qatar’s offensive charge and epitomises their threat in the final third.
In defence, the trio of Tarek Salman, Almahdi, and Lucas Mendes has been pivotal in limiting opposition threats. Qatar’s defensive record, having conceded only two goals in the competition so far, owes much to their collective defensive efforts. Salman’s leadership at the back, coupled with Almahdi’s organisational skills and Mendes’s defensive dominance forms the bedrock of Qatar’s defensive stability. However, they face uncertainty regarding the availability of Farrukh Sayfiev and Sultan Al Brake, who may be game-time decisions due to injuries.
Tactically, Qatar in possession take up a 3-5-2 shape with full-backs pushing high up the pitch to provide width, along with one of the strikers dropping deeper to create a midfield diamond in the build-up. Dealing with this overload in midfield will be important for Iran if they wish to maintain control of the game in the centre of the park. Qatar out of possession are generally passive, favouring a mid/low block 5-3-2 shape and wanting to keep the game in front of them.
Iran should be looking for opportunities in transition when they can win the ball high up or even in the middle third when the Qatari full-backs are high. This will give the likes of winger Jahanbakhsh the chance to attack the space left outside the three central defenders. It will be an interesting tactical battle given the risk-averse approach of both nations.
Iran vs Qatar Head-to-Head
This will be the third meeting between Iran and Qatar at the AFC Asian Cup. Iran have won both of their previous two meetings without conceding a single goal – a 2-0 win in the group stage in 1988 and a 1-0 victory in the group stage of the 2015 edition.
Their last meeting came in October 2023, with Iran running out 4-0 winners in a friendly thanks to goals from Hossein Kanani (2), Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Iran vs Qatar Prediction
Iran are predicted to make it through to the AFC Asian Cup final, with the Opta supercomputer seeing them defeat hosts Qatar inside 90 minutes across 42.2% of simulations before kick-off. Qatar won 31.7% of those, while 26.1% of those games ended in a draw and went to extra time.
Overall, Iran are just behind South Korea as favourites to win the Asian Cup outright, with both of these big AFC national teams ahead of Qatar and Jordan in the Opta supercomputer’s projections.
Iran vs Qatar Squads
Iran: Payam Niazmand, Alireza Beiranvand, Hossein Hosseini, Majid Hosseini, Milad Mohammadi, Ehsan Hajisafi, Sadegh Moharrami, Hossein Kanani, Aria Yousefi, Shoja Khalilzadeh, Ramin Rezaeian, Saman Fallah, Mehdi Torabi, Roozbeh Cheshmi, Saeid Ezatolahi, Reza Asadi, Omid Ebrahimi, Mohammad Mohebi, Ali Gholizadeh, Mehdi Ghayedi, Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sardar Azmoun, Saman Ghoddos, Shahriyar Moghanlou.
Coach: Amir Ghalenoei
Qatar: Saad Al Sheeb, Meshaal Barsham, Salah Zakaria, Bassam Al Rawi, Almahdi Ali, Pedro Miguel, Tarek Salman, Lucas Mendes, Homam Ahmed, Boualem Khoukhi, Sultan Al Brake, Abdulaziz Hatem, Jassem Gaber, Ahmed Fathy, Mohammed Waad, Mostafa Meshaal, Ali Asad, Ahmed Al Ganehi, Khaled Mohammed, Ismaeel Mohammad, Ahmed Alaa, Almoez Ali, Akram Afif, Khalid Muneer, Yusuf Abdurisag, Hassan Al Haydos.
Coach: Tintín Márquez