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By ESPN Staff
Jul 5, 2007

Iran's Karimi eager to silence critics

KUALA LUMPUR, July 5 (Reuters) - Striker Ali Karimi hopes to use the Asian Cup to prove his critics wrong after being slammed by Iran's media for being overweight and losing his touch.

The former Bayern Munich forward is also keen to make up for his disappointing performance at last year's World Cup when Iran finished bottom of Group D with just one point.

'I want to show people that I still have what it takes to succeed at international level and the Asian Cup is a great opportunity for me,' the 28-year-old told reporters. 'People have been saying I'm overweight but that is not true.

'I'm fit and ready to play. It's a tough tournament. There are several teams apart from us who have a chance to win, including Australia, Saudi Arabia, Japan and Korea,' added Karimi, who has scored 35 goals in 99 internationals.

Iran are in Group C with China, Uzbekistan and hosts Malaysia. They open their campaign against the Uzbeks on Wednesday.

The Iranians arrived in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday with a powerful squad, led by Eintracht Frankfurt's Mehdi Mahdavikia, who has captained the side since the international retirement of world-record goalscorer Ali Daei.

There are seven overseas-based players in the squad, including Hanover's Vahid Hashemian and Osasuna midfielder Javad Nekounam.

Iran beat Jamaica 8-1 at home on Monday but were still criticised by the local media for lacking cohesion.