Team Melli will be facing Lebanon in one of the most crucial matches of the final qualification rounds of the FIFA World Cup 2014 in Brazil. After a series of unconvincing displays by the Iranian team under the coaching of the Portuguese coach , Carlos Queiroz, the ex-Real Madrid and asst. coach of Alex Ferguson , has admitted that the task in Beirut will not be easy as he is will be facing a determined team that requires a good result to stay in touch with the rest of the teams in this group.
Iran’s Team Melli has not won a competitive match since the opener game of this group against Uzbekistan in Tashkent in June with an injury time goal by Khalatbary. Since then , a disappointing draw against Qatar in Azadi in front of capacity crowds , followed by two friendly draws against Tunisia and Jordan , has attracted criticism against the performance and results from the media nd experts. Queiroz , a person who has not been very accommodating to the critics and has shown little tolerance towards critics , has been on the defensive and accused his critics of failing to support the team at crusical stage of the competition.
In any case , the Portuguese is feeling the heat and is under pressure to deliver some good result in Beirut but according to him , that will not be an easy job. “Despite the fact that our match against Lebanon is not going to be easy, we have a great chance to win. We can‘t underestimate Lebanon because they are a strong team especially when they play at home and therefore the task will not be easy”, Queiroz was quoted in the pre-match press conference. On the other side , His German coach of Lebanon national team , Theo Bücker emphasized his team’s dire need for the 3 points “the result is really important and could determine our campaign in the qualifiers.”
Lebanon hwill virtually lose all chances of making a comeback in this group if they l;ose all three points at hom,e against Iran, however , the possibility of the Lebanese going for an all offensive strategy is quite remote ads the cautious German would rather not lose than to open up and expose his defense line. Lebanon depends on the counter attack while they have maintained a good defensive plans through this campaign. Such strategy resulted in an historic win against the mighty South Koreans ,a result that shocked the perennial Asian World Cup qualifiers and resulted in the sacking of their coach. Although Lebanon has not repeated such a feat again , the possibilities are there given the home advantage and the need to win points at such a stage.
All indication s are towards a tough match for Queiroz men , especially in the absence of some key players such as the inspirational Ashkan Dejaghah who suffered a minor knock that kept him away from the Jordan camp and the friendly. With Andranik Teymourian being suspended for this match as a result of two cards, the midfield will depend on the industry of Captain Javad Nekounam and creativity of the veteran Ali Karimi . Both the players have been found wanting and have not produced the quality expected from them. The veteran midfielders, who have over 250 caps between them, have suffered poor form at club and country level since the start of the season, while other midfield players have also not managed to sparkle the team.
At the front line, news about Mohammad Ghazi . who was pulled out of the match against Jordan after a receiving a knock , is still sketch and it is unconfirmed if he will be part of the squad, leaving the lone forward spot to Karim Ansarifard to spearhead the Iranian offensive. The Perspolis player is also suffering from a soft patch and was initially not selected for the squad , however an injury to other players forced the Portuguese coach to recall Ansarifard , a move that attracted further scorn form critics of Carlos Queiroz.
While the defense line was relatively stable and immune from major changes, there has been a quite a few changes recently in this line as well. Several combinations of players for the central half was attempted by Queiroz while the same also was true for the half backs. The expected line up at the back remains to be seen.
Queiroz realizes the importance of the three points and he will be desperate to achieve all of the points. A slip or in worst case scenario, a defeat, might will put the Iranian team chances for qualifying in real jeopardy especially since both Uzbekistan and Qatar are very much still in with a chance to challenge Iran for one of the spots.