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Iran World Cup squad includes stars banned for Israel match

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Tehran: Iran announced its squad for the 2018 World Cup late Sunday, with two midfield stars making the cut despite being banned last year for playing against an Israeli team.

Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Haji Safi were among the 35 players announced by Iran's Football Federation on its website.

Sports officials said last August that Shojaei, 33, and Haji Safi, 28, would be banned for life after appearing for their Greek club Panionios against an Israeli team.

Iran does not recognise the Jewish state and bars its athletes from appearing against Israelis.

But there was uproar from fans and confusion reigned over the issue, with Shojaei returning to the national squad in March and Haji Safi never actually banned.

Iran is unable to openly discuss the ban on facing Israelis because it breaches international sporting regulations.

There were no surprises in the rest of the squad, but Iranian fans will be pinning their hopes on 24-year-old winger and attacking midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who plays for The Netherlands' AZ Alkmaar.

This season, Jahanbakhsh became the first Asian player to become top scorer in a major European league, with 21 league goals.

Iran's national team has been coached the past seven years by Portugal's Carlos Queiroz, a former one-season manager at Real Madrid and an assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

Team Melli faces a tough group in the World Cup, with Spain, Portugal and Morocco.

Iran had a strong run in qualifiers, becoming the first to book their place from the Asian Football Confederation.

Shojaei will be making a record third appearance for Iran at the World Cup. He has remained vague about the Israel ban, but said in March he was pleased to return as "a soldier" for Team Melli.

Our main target is AFC U-16 Finals, says U-16 head coach Bibiano
New Delhi:
Head coach Bibiano Fernandes isn't willing to read too much into U-16 Indian football team's performance at the recently-concluded four-nation International tournament in Serbia and set his eyes on the AFC U-16 Finals in Malaysia.

The Indian colts pumped in as many as three goals in the first 10 minutes of the match to outplay Tajikistan 4-2 and emerge champions in the four-nation Under-16 Tournament held in Serbia.

"It actually doesn't mean much as this is only the process for our main objective. We haven't yet achieved anything much,” Bibiano told AIFF. "But yeah, I am very happy that the boys are showing great focus and hunger in the process. Our main target is the AFC U-16 Finals Malaysia 2018," he added. The AFC U-16 Finals will be held in Malaysia from September 20 to October 7 later this year.
 

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