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Faces of Football: Iran – a letter to the national team

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Dear Iranian national team, 

I’m an Iran national team fan, and I have been for about 30 years. I could say 38, but I was born in 1984 and I am pretty sure I had no clue as to what football was back then, and who Team Melli were.

I love football, but I am proud to be an Iran fan for reasons that go much further than my love of the beautiful game.

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I remember several special moments in Team Melli’s, but the most memorable for me was undoubtedly Khodadad Azizi’s leveller against Australia in 1997, where we qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 20 years. I watched the game with my family, and I’ll never forget the jubilation when the goal went in.

I don’t live in Iran anymore, but every time I watch a game I picture my parents and my brother watching the game on different couches, in different places, cheering for the same players that I’m cheering for. 

In many ways, the national team keeps me connected to my country and my family. 

I currently reside in Dublin, so I will have the opportunity to watch the matches in some cheerful Irish pubs. Some Irish friends will accompany me to watch our matches against England and Wales, which will surely be a very fun time. I’m expecting my Irish friends to be cheering on Iran – especially against England!

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Iran are expected to put in a good performance against England. Some fans believe we have a real chance of finishing second in the group and making it through to the last 16.

The tactical main feature of the current Team Melli side is defensive compactness and quick counter-attacks. I love how tenacious and hard-working our team is, and at the same time I enjoy how the team attack as a unit when the ball is won back. 

My favourite player is, without a doubt,Sardar Azmoun. After a successful 10-year career in the Russian League, he has recently moved to Bayer Leverkusen. With 41 goals in 65 appearances for Iran, he is going to be our star man this winter in Qatar.

I am proud to say that Iran has some of the most vocal and passionate fans across Asia, and we’re well known across the world for this. The first song, and possibly the most famous one,  that I remember singing in the stadium was ‘Hamle Hamle, Team e Iran, Gol Bezan Yalla Ghahreman’ and I am sure it will be heard in Qatar stadiums during the tournament. 

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Now is a unique moment in Iranian history. The terrible death of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old who died under suspicious circumstances after being arrested by morality police, has left a bitter taste in most of the nations’ mouths. In these times, the World Cup might not be a priority for some fans, but it would be wonderful for the national team to give us something to be proud of in Qatar. 

I wish you all the success in Qatar!



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Monterrey signs midfielder Jordi Cortizo from Puebla

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Rayados de Monterrey have signed midfielder Jordi Cortizo from Club Puebla, ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura. 

He joins the Guadalajara team on a four-season contract, according to Diego Armando Medina of TUDN.

“I have been delighted since the opportunity to come here was given, I always knew that I had to make a leap to these big leagues with one of the biggest clubs in Mexico,” Cortizo said of his transfer. 

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Cortizo kicked off his professional career with Queretaro in 2017, recording four goals in 76 appearances over the course of three years before seeing stints with Tijuana and Puebla. He managed well in Liga MX, but it wasn’t until the 2022 Apertura that he became a standout. 

The offensive midfielder recorded five goals in 20 overall matches to inspire Puebla to eighth on the table and the Liguilla quarterfinals. 

Overall, Cortizo has 12 goals in 149 Liga MX appearances. 

“They are going to see a player who always tries, that will never fail, who will go for the ball, will try to play, propose offensive play, go forward and who will always give himself up for the club. It is my dream to be champion of the Liga MX, there is no better option today than to be sitting here and with this squad to achieve it,” he said.

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Cortizo stands as the first signing under new Monterrey president Jose Antonio Noriega, who replaced Duilio Davino  following the team’s elimination from the 2022 Apertura. Upon his arrival, Noriega insisted he needed to evaluate the team’s needs before making drastic changes. 

But the arrival of Jordi Cortizo will now set off the several moves already planned. 

The 2023 Liga MX Clausura kicks off on January 6.



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Club America sign defender Israel Reyes from Puebla

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Club America has finally signed defender Israel Reyes from Club Puebla.

He stands as the team’s first reinforcement ahead of the 2023 Liga MX Clausura, joining on a four-year contract.  The Mexico City team reportedly paid $4.5M for Reyes, after he established himself as one of the most promising defenders in the Mexican league.

Reyes kicked off his professional career with Atlas in 2019, before quickly securing a loan deal to Puebla. After 19 games with the Franja, the team exercised his purchase option to make Reyes a staple of the backline. 

But it wasn’t until the 2022 Apertura that he became a standout in the Mexican league. The 22-year-old managed three goals in 17 games of the 2022 Apertura, inspiring Puebla to eighth place in the regular season and the Liguilla quarterfinals. 

Overall, he recorded six goals in 76 appearances with Puebla before joining Club America.

Internationally, the player holds one cap with the Mexican national team. He made his debut on December 8, 2021, coming on as a substitute in the 68th minute of a friendly against Chile.

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England vs Senegal: Confirmed lineups

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England vs Senegal: Confirmed lineups

On Sunday, England and Senegal, their opponents in the last-16 of the World Cup, square off at Al Bayt Stadium in a battle for a spot in the quarterfinals.

The Three Lions take on the Lions of Teranga, who advanced to the knockout stages thanks to a crucial intervention from their captain, in a first-ever meeting after Gareth Southgate’s team defeated Wales to win Group B.

Line-up

England XI: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Bellingham; Saka, Foden, Kane.  

Senegal XI: E. Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs; Ciss, N. Mendy; Diatta, Ndiaye, Sarr; Dia. 

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