OPINION: In Asian Cup’s Group C, Iran’s preparations lag

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Bosnia-Herzegovina v Iran: Group F - 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil

It’s the same story we’re used to from ’s national team. As a crucial competitive tournament approaches, be it World Cup qualifying, the World Cup itself, or the Asian Cup, Team Melli remains “left behind” due to chronic poor planning.

The , the AFC’s most prestigious tournament, officially kicks off on January 9th in Australia.and runs through the 31st The winner of the tournament will earn the right to participate in the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup.

Iran has been drawn into Group C along with Persian Gulf rivals Qatar, Bahrain and UAE.

However, unlike the Iranians, the other Group C teams have been quite active in charting out comprehensive preparation plans and playing friendly games.

The gap is clear: while Iran have yet to play a single game since the World Cup, their opponents have played between two and four games each. Qatar leads the way, with four post-World Cup friendlies behind them and six more on the way. Bahrain and the UAE each have four games remaining, while Carlos Queiroz’s side can only look forward to a scheduled November 18th encounter against South Korea.

By the time Group C action kicks off on January 11th in Canberra, Qatar will have played 10 friendlies, Bahrain and UAE seven, and Iran just one.

With only the top two teams of each group advancing to the knock-out stage, preparation for the tournament will be key. Will Iran’s talent be enough to see them through the group stage, or will their half-year vacation be their undoing? While anything is possible once the referee blows his whistle, the situation looks grim for Team Melli.