It wasn’t quite as effortless as some had anticipated, but Iran have once again emphasised their class with a comfortable 7-3 semi final win over Uzbekistan to earn themselves a shot at reclaiming the AFC Futsal Championship title.
The result was well established by the break – two goals form Mohammad Taheri and one each to Javad Asgharimoghaddam and Ahmad Pari Azar saw Iran lead 4-2 at half time, before Mohammad Keshavarz Nasrabadi, Pari Arar again and Vahid Shamsaee completed the scoring in the second half.
For Uzbekistan , Abdulla Buriev’s rich goal scoring form was added to in just the second minute, before Hurshid Tajibaev and Farruh Zakirov contributed to Uzbekistan ’s most fruitful return against Iran since 2000.
While the four-goal margin was one of Iran’s slightest in recent years – only paralleled by Lebanon on the opening day of this tournament and better by Thailand and Kyrgyzstan last year, the eventual result was never in question.
Uzbekistan started promisingly, even claiming the lead with the first goal of the match, but was ultimately unable to sustain their intensity against an Iran side that is yet to be seriously tested at these Championships.
Though Uzbekistan did pose a threat on the counter attack, particularly with striker Buriev in rich goal scoring form, Iran’s movements at the other end were every bit as graceful as Asian futsal fans have come to expect.
Led by captain Mohammad Reza Heidarian, Iran accounted for any of their marginal defensive deficiencies by way of sheer clinical precision when going forward.
Significantly, prolific marksman Shamsaee contributed just one goal to the seven-goal tally – a ratio far less than Iran have become accustomed since the inauguration of the Championships and a telling sign that this Iran line up can boast depth far beyond their marquee man.
"Unlike our previous loss against Iraq , this was a game that we lost against a team from a different class," said Uzbekistan assistant coach Pavel Bezglyadnov.
"It’s obvious that Iran is a very good team, they have a very good captain and I feel that the final will be a very interesting match."
Uzbekistan’s performance, which ebbed and flowed throughout, was exemplary of their character at these Championships.
An opening day loss to qualifiers Iraq was responded to with a crucial victory of rare quality over highly-fancied Thailand .
The Uzbek’s performances ranged from scintillating to borderline narcoleptic, and none of their three victories, other than that against the in-form Thai’s, were entirely convincing.
In total contradiction, from day one Iran have looked a side fixated on reclaiming a mantle that was theirs for so long.
"We started preparations for this tournament eight months ago, with a new coach and a new strategy, as we didn’t like the system that we had," said Iran coach Shams Hossein.
"This year, we are playing with a different style according to the players that we have and the opposition we are facing.
" Uzbekistan is a very good team and they were playing very advanced futsal, and that’s why we played the tactics that we did today. I assure you, tomorrow, you will be seeing another tactic."