AFC - Eliminated Islamic Republic of Iran have exited the 2018 AFC Women’s Asian Cup qualifiers with their pride intact, producing a professional display to hand rock-bottom Syria a 12-0 thumping on Tuesday.
Sweltering conditions greeted the two sides, who both opted for heavily rotated starting line-ups, giving several squad players their first minutes of the tournament.
Despite the multiple changes, Zahra Ghanbari opened the scoring with her now customary early goal. After scoring within the first 14 minutes against Singapore, and eight against Vietnam, Ghanbari this time took less than three minutes to give her side the lead, though goalkeeper Noor Jumaa might have done better with her shot from distance.
From then on, the match became something of a procession, as Iran repeatedly bypassed Syria’s high defensive line to set up easy goals for Ghanbari, Shaghayegh Rouzbahan and Sara Zhorabinia, who bagged a first half hat-trick to give her side a 6-0 half-time lead.
Iran’s dominance continued unabated in the second half, as Zohrabinia added to her tally shortly after the break, before Fatemeh Ghasemi buried a free kick, and Ghanbari completed her hat-trick to make it nine.
Zohrabinia took her personal tally to five, while Ghanbari scored her fourth and Sara Ghomi completed Iran’s dozen as they handed Syria a third consecutive double-figure loss.
Although Syria lost all four of their matches in Hanoi – struggling in the process to compete with their more experienced opponents - their presence represents a vital return to international football after six years in the wilderness.
By way of contrast, it was the second win of the tournament for Maryam Azmoun’s Iran, who were eliminated after losses to Myanmar and Vietnam.
Iran head coach Maryam Azmoun:
“After our heartbreaking loss against Vietnam, we had to work on the psychology of our players. It is a matter of national pride that Iran are not a weak team, but we have to work on our conditioning to compete with these great teams.”
Syria head coach Abd Alghini Tatteesh:
“We are not as quick as they are, so we kept the same approach. This tournament is a very important step, because we will go back to Syria and we’re going to start with the clubs and the academies and create a new generation for Syria.”
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