AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Iran coach Amir Ghalenoei fired a broadside at his country’s media after guiding his team to the semi-finals of the Asian Cup on Saturday, saying some of their criticism was not warranted after he took over the national team 11 months ago.

Ghalenoei took charge of the team in March for a second stint having led the Iranians to the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup in 2007, but this time he has taken them one step further after they beat Asia’s top-ranked side Japan 2-1 on Saturday.

The 60-year-old, who replaced Carlos Queiroz, is unbeaten in 16 matches since taking charge but had been questioned last year when Iran took part in friendly competitions such as the Jordan International Tournament and the CAFA Nations Cup.

“Everybody should have belief in Iranian coaches. We have a lot of good Iranian coaches who couldn’t make it to Europe because of Iran’s political situation,” Ghalenoei told reporters after receiving a standing ovation at his press conference.

“During the last 11 months, Iranian media criticised us when we participated in the Jordan International Tournament and the CAFA Nations Cup.

“But you can see from the eight teams in the quarter-finals of the Asian Cup, five teams were from that tournament. Three teams from those tournaments reached the semi-finals.

“I’m not saying criticism isn’t good, but some people tried to ruin the national team in the last 11 months. This is not good… I want to thank those who supported us and my family.”

Ghalenoei’s side had won the inaugural seven-team tournament organised by the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) in June, beating Uzbekistan in the final.

Iran then won the four-team Jordan International Tournament in Amman in October when they beat Qatar in the final of the competition which also featured Jordan and Iraq.

Iran will face Qatar or Uzbekistan in the Asian Cup semi-final.

“Between Qatar and Uzbekistan, there is no difference for us. We played both teams in these 11 months,” he added.

“Before the knockout stage many people suggested that we should change our path to the final (to avoid top teams in the Asian Cup), but we were brave enough to play with everybody. We beat every team until this stage.” REUTERS

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