Iran defender Rahman Rezaei has downplayed his side’s position as Group C favourites at the AFC Asian Cup 2007, but still insists that this year’s team is stronger than the one that finished third three years ago.
Iran have been fancied to top a group that also includes Uzbekistan, China and co-hosts Malaysia, but the 32-year-old, who is the oldest member of Amir Ghalenoei’s side in Kuala Lumpur, has enough experience to know that nothing can be taken for granted in the competition.
"Our group is very strong and we can expect some difficult matches here," insisted the Livorno centre back on Monday after his team’s training session at the Bukit Jalil National Stadium.
"Of course, we are the strongest team in this group on paper, we have good technique and we are in good condition physically.
"But there are no certainties when the game is played. We can only try our best but we cannot predict what will happen on Wednesday."
Rezaei is confident though that Team Melli can improve on their performance in China three years ago, when they went out in the semi-finals after a penalty shootout loss to the hosts.
"We’re quite happy with our preparations here," he said. "The condition of the field is okay, the facilities are good, we are very relaxed here and we should be ready for our first match.
"I am sure that we have a strong belief that we can win this tournament. This is a very strong team, maybe stronger that the team that played in 2004.
"Of course, there are some members of the 2004 team like Ali Daei who are not playing here but the players that are in this squad are very good and we have replacements who can play at the same level as Daei."
The three-time champions will kick off their campaign against Uzbekistan at Bukit Jalil Stadium on Wednesday.