Bookmark and Share

Iran's soccer team crowned at AFCFC Challenge Cup


Iran won the AFC/OFC Challenge Cup as it crushed New Zealand 3-0 in the 100,000-seater Azadi Stadium, 10 km west of Tehran, on Sunday, IRNA reported.

Ali Karimi grabbed his double Sunday to give his Iranian side a 2-0 first-half victory over the Oceania Football Confederation champion New Zealand and the nimble, skilled Hossein Ka'bi added the third after the restart.

The fast-paced right winger of Hamburg Mahdi Mahdavikia rifled a 25-yard drive in the 16th minute, which was parried out by the New Zealand's keeper.

Two minutes later, the Bundesliga-bound Mahdavikia saw his inswinging corner bounce back by the crossbar as Alireza Nikbakht-Vahedi headed.

Karimi triggered celebrations in the stadium, west of Tehran, in the 25th minute when he side-footed a loose ball past the Kiwis' goalie.

He scored his own and Iran's double seven minutes before the interval when he received a superb pass from Mahdavikia in the penalty area, cleared the New Zealand's goal-keeper in a man-to-man challenge and sent the ball into an empty net. Iran celebrated the third goal in the 67th minute when Ka'bi stole

the ball from negligent defender Lochhead and slid the ball past the visitor's diving keeper from close range.

The host came close to the fourth in the 90th minute but the left-foot shot of skipper Ali Daei was bounced back by the New Zealand's goal-keeper.

Iran lifted the AFC/OFC Challenge Cup title in the presence of the Asian Football Confederation President Peter Velappan.

Iran-New Zealand match was originally scheduled in March-April as a home and away series, but the OFC said in a statement that this was not possible because of the situation at that time in the Middle East. The OFC said the Cup would be contested under the original format as a one-off fixture.

This was the format used when the AFC/OFC Challenge Cup was first played with Japan beating Australia 3-0 in 2001. The Challenge Cup would continue as a regular fixture every two years, the OFC said.

The winner of the OFC Nations Cup will represent Oceania at future tournaments, while the Asian representative will alternate between the winner of the Asian Cup and winner of the Asian Games.

Iran is the defending Asian Games champion and Japan was the Asian Cup champion last year.

© Copyright 2003 (All Rights Reserved)