‘WC round of 16’ challenge at ‘AC round of 16’ stadium

United Arab Emirates (UAE) national soccer team head coach Paulo Bento will lead his side into the round of 16 at the Asian Cup.

Bento’s men will face Amir Ghalenoy’s Iran in the final Group C match of the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) 2023 Qatar Asian Cup at the Education City Stadium in Al Rayyan, Qatar, on Thursday at midnight (ET).

Iran defeated Palestine 4-1 in the first leg. They followed that up with a 1-0 win over Hong Kong in the second game. With six points from two group wins, Iran now sits atop Group C and has clinched an early berth in the round of 16.

The UAE is second in the group with four points. They defeated Hong Kong 3-1 in game one and tied Palestine 1-1 in game two. They’ve secured third place in the group regardless of the outcome of this match, but they’re determined to get a good result and secure a spot in the Round of 16.

The Education City Stadium was the scene of drama at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, where Bento led South Korea to the knockout stages.

Bento’s men faced South Korea in the third match of their World Cup Group H campaign at the stadium, and despite conceding a goal in the first five minutes of the match, they bounced back with a 2-1 win thanks to Kim Young-Kwon’s equalizer and Hwang Hee-Chan’s late stoppage-time winner to advance to the Round of 16.

Bento aims for another round of 16 here. Here’s the starting eleven to take on Iran.

Up front, forwards Ali Saleh, Yahya Al Ghassani, and Hareb Abdullah. In the midfield, Majid Rashid, Ali Mabkut, and Abdullah Ramadan start. The defense will be led by Zayed Sultan, Khaled Al Hashemi, Khaled Ibrahim, and Bader Nasser. Khalid Eisa will wear the goalkeeping gloves.

Iran, who face the UAE, are led by ace Sardar Azmoun and have Mehdi Taremi, Mehdi Gayedi and Saman Godos in the attacking lineup. In the midfield are Ehsan Hajizafi, Saeed Ezzatollahi, and Ali Gholizadeh. The defense is led by Sadegh Moharami, Shoja Karilzadeh, and Hossein Kanani. The starting goalkeeper is Alireza Beiranvand.

The all-time series is dominated by Iran. They have won 14, drawn three and lost one of the 18 meetings. It will be interesting to see if Bento can once again secure a historic win at the Education City Stadium to book their place in the round of 16.

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