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Iran warned new law is putting Asian Cup place at risk

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KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) Iran has been told it could face suspension from the Asian Cup in January over a law interfering in the national soccer federation’s independence.

The Asian Football Confederation says it is “closely monitoring the current issues” with its top-ranked team, and will not tolerate “third-party interference in their member associations.”

The Malaysia-based AFC says Iran’s parliament announced a law “designating the (soccer federation) as a non-government public body and prohibiting the engagement of retired personnel.”

The AFC says it hopes Iran’s soccer body “can maintain its independence and avoid any sanctions” less than two months before the Asian Cup starts in the United Arab Emirates.

Iran, the best Asian team at No. 30 in FIFA’s rankings, plays its opening game Jan. 7 against Yemen in Abu Dhabi. The group includes Iraq and Vietnam.

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Brighton breaks transfer record to sign Iranian star

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Alireza Jahanbakhsh says he chose AZ Alkmaar over Brighton and Hove Albion the last time he was on the transfer market, but things changed a lot before the Gulls broke its transfer record to bring him to south England.

[ READ: Emery supporting Ozil]

Jahanbakhsh, 24, left NEC Breda in 2015 after scoring 12 goals in the Dutch second tier. The Iranian star has steadily improved and posted 21 goals and 12 assists last season, leading the Eredivisie in goals and boasting an astounding 14 Man of the Match awards.

And Brighton is no longer in the Championship, now a second-year Premier League club with plenty of momentum. From brightonandhovealbion.com:

“Three years ago I didn’t know much about the club, but now I know a lot more. All of these reasons made me move to this amazing club. I was following the club’s games and results last season. The end of last season was a good time for me to move outside of the country. I decided to move and I was thinking a lot, asking people that I trust, and most of them were really positive about joining Brighton.”

Sure there’s a risk to any player joining a superior league, but Jahanbakhsh may carry less than most and Brighton has shown a keen eye for identifying players from other leagues whether big ones like Pascal Gross or smaller like Jose Izquierdo.

Out in the group stage, but up in transfer stock

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Hyeon-woo Jo had an exceptional World Cup.

His South Korean national team did not.

But that will not stop potential suitors from seeking the 26-year-old goalkeeper who was named Man of the Match against Germany.

[ MORE: Knockout round schedule, bracket ]

And there will be many more. The 2014 World Cup saw names like DeAndre Yedlin (USMNT), James Rodriguez (Colombia), and Keylor Navas (Costa Rica) gain plenty of renown.

Here’s a list of names who’ve left the World Cup in the group stage but will certainly have their proverbial tires kicked.

Hyeon-woo Jo, South Korea (Daegu FC)

And he’s humble, to boot. From FIFA.com:

“I’ve never had a perfect game like this before, in my entire career, but I wasn’t saving all the shots by myself today – I thought the other goalkeepers [Kim] Seunggyu and [Kim] Jinhyeon were also giving me a hand.”

Salem Al-Dawsari, Saudi Arabia (Al-Hilal)

Didn’t see much time on loan at Villarreal this season, but clearly is a player not constrained to playing in his home country. The 26-year-old winger scored, averaged key passes per game, and threw in 2.3 interceptions per contest for good measure.

Kenneth Omeruo, Nigeria (Kasimpasa)

The center back registered an assist and played an all-around game for Nigeria. At 24, he should have plenty of suitors.

Lee Jae-sung, South Korea (Jeonbuk Hyundai)

If the 25-year-old midfielder’s status as the 2017 K-League Most Valuable Player hadn’t already raised some eyebrows, his job patrolling the center of the park certainly did the trick.

Ramin Rezaeian, Iran (Oostende)

The 28-year-old right-sided man can play right back or more advanced. He’s a bit longer-in-the-tooth in terms of prospect, but a club could do worse in adding depth.

Moussa Wagué, Senegal (Eupen)

A 19-year-old right back whose name was already popping up in the rumor mill, he’s going to be carrying even more interest after scoring against Japan.

Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show: Episode 5 (video)

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In the fifth episode of Layla’s Occasionally Unbiased Football Show, Iranians party outside of the Portugal team hotel prior to their match, Mohamed Salah mulls international retirement, and more.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ] 

There will be plenty more to come over the next few weeks, with the show coming via the Men In Blazers.

Click play on the video above to watch the first episode in full.

Bizarre spelling confusion in Iran v Portugal

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Iran came agonizingly close to knocking Portugal out of the 2018 World Cup on Monday and they could’ve topped Group B had a late chance from Mehdi Taremi gone the other side of the post.

Instead they are heading home at the group stage.

But there was something other than the chaos involving VAR and Cristiano Ronaldo’s missed penalty kick which incensed some concerned with Iran: the spelling on Portugal’s jerseys.

As is the case for international games, the opposition and date of the game is stitched on the jersey by the badge to commemorate the occasion.

Yet when a close-up shot of Portugal’s jersey was shown on television, many Iranians were up in arms as they thought the jerseys read “Iraq v Portugal, 25 June, 2018, Saransk.”

Of course, Iraq are Iran’s fierce rivals, so, cue uproar among the Iranian contingent.

However, when it was quickly pointed out that Iran is spelt “Irao” in Portuguese, then, well, it all made sense.

One of the more bizarre situations in this World Cup so far…