Both sides have a bitter history against each other with the Bahraini players carrying the Saudi Arabia flag after defeating Iran 3-1 during the 2002 World Cup qualifiers. The victory allowed their neighbour country to march onto the World Cup stage and Nekounam is adamant of seeking revenge for it.
“The Iranian players always want to beat the Bahraini football team. We haven’t forgotten their nasty behaviour in the 2002 World Cup qualifiers,” the Osasuna midfielder told reporters.
Nekounam added: “Hopefully, we are the happy team after the final whistle tomorrow.
"We want to qualify for the next round as the first-place team and must beat Bahrain in our home game."
Nekounam also claimed that the home advantage will be crucial in overcoming the Bahrainian 'cheaters'.
“The fans must believe in their players. They must support us to help us defeat our opponent. Some of Bahrain’s players always try to cheat the referees, but we know how they play,” Nekounam said.
With all this fiery build-up atmosphere taking control of the pre-match proceedings, nothing less than fireworks can be expected when both sides face each other on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, former Bahrain captain Mohamed Salmeen, who earned a recall from coach Peter Taylor for the match, said his team-mates can't afford to be overawed by the Iranian fans.
“The best advice I can give them is to not be overawed by the Iran fans who will pack the Azadi Stadium to the rafters,” Salmeen told Fifa.com.
“They [the Iran fans] are passionate about football and they support their team to the end, especially when they’re playing against a Gulf side.
“Iran are virtually untouchable at home. Our players need to ignore the pressure from the crowd. In 2001, when we drew against them in Tehran, we were completely focused on our objective and paid no attention to the massive crowds watching from the stands.”
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