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Iranian ‘surprise’ at appointment of Kuwati referee

By AFP
February 07, 2024

DOHA: Iran defender Saeid Ezatolahi has questioned the appointment of a Kuwaiti referee for their Asian Cup semi-final against hosts and holders Qatar on Wednesday.

Irans midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi applauds the fans at the end of the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup football match. — AFP/File
Iran's midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi applauds the fans at the end of the Qatar 2023 AFC Asian Cup football match. — AFP/File

Ahmad Al-Ali is reportedly set to take charge of the game in Doha and Ezatolahi said it was “a little bit surprising”.

“We are wondering how it´s possible that they put an Arabic guy in charge of the game,” Ezatolahi, who plays for Danish club Vejle, said on Tuesday.

“But we are Iran, we are a very big team, we have good players, we are professional.”

The Asian Football Confederation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Iran are trying to win the Asian Cup for the first time since 1976 and reached the semi-finals after beating pre-tournament favourites Japan 2-1.

On the eve of the Qatar clash, Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei also hit out at some of the officiating at the tournament, saying “VAR has not been very kind to us”.

“We could have had a penalty against Japan but VAR did not check it for us,” he said.

“We have to be stronger than everything that is happening at this tournament.”

Qatar are the defending champions and beat Uzbekistan on penalties to advance to the semi-finals.

Asked about the referee for Wednesday´s match, Qatar coach Tintin Marquez said he was “only focusing on my own team”.