A sizeable number of expats cheered the Iran football team at a training session held here ahead of its 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier (AFC second round) fixture against India.
The players obliged numerous requests for photos from the large group that gathered at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium, even as a couple of India internationals were forced to push their way past the crowd to join their side at practice.
“Our fans are present wherever we play in the world. The team appreciates their presence, but on the field, it is the players who decide the outcome of the match,” said Iran skipper Andranik Teymourian.
Teymourian, the first Christian to captain the national team, downplayed suggestions that Iran is the clear favourite. “We are very happy that we have done well so far, but we know that India is a good team. They play well at home,” the former Bolton Wanderers player said.
Sardar Azmoun, touted as the ‘Iranian Messi’, said: “I know that Indian football is improving and making a lot of progress in recent years. I hope that the Indian team does well, but having said that, we of course want to get three points here.”
Meanwhile, Eugeneson Lyngdoh, the Bengaluru FC midfielder who is expected to line up against Iran on Tuesday, said that a compact game could help India.
“As long as we put in a good day’s work, we can hope for a positive result. We have a plan, and maybe we can cause an upset,” said Lyngdoh. “Iran is a very good side, everyone has seen them in action at the 2014 World Cup. But if we play a compact game, we can do well.
“I would have personally liked to have had three or four more practice matches. That would have been ideal preparation for a match like this.
“As individual players, we are well prepared, but as a team, we could have been more match-fit,” he added.
“I’m very happy to play against Iran. Every footballer would like to get the chance to play big teams like Brazil, Argentina and others.
These sort of matches could be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. This is when you get to know where you stand as a footballer. It motivates us to do our very best,” said Lyngdoh.