With just about 22 days to go to the defining match for Team Melli against South Korea , Carlos Queiroz, Team Melli’s coach is in dilemma after seeing many of his main players or those he has named in the squad, tumble in one way or another.
Perspolis Club of which the Portuguese coach has selected no less than 7 players in his squad (Karimi , Ghazi , Ansarifard , Nouri , Hosseini , Pooladi and Mahini) on regular basis and also has named Gholamreza Rezaei in this list whenever he was fit , is struggling near the end of the league table.
The most popular club in Iran , has been going through turmoil on and off the field with lackluster performances. On Sunday , they lost to the current champions Sepahan Esfahn by 2-0 to register their fourth losses in 9 matches while lingering at the bottom of the table one point away from the lowest ranked club, Zob Ahan. To add insult to injury, the star studded team has played the match against Sepahan without Ali Karimi , a player Queiroz has depended on so heavily in his line up in Team Melli. Karimi was dropped from the Perspolis squad by Coach Manuel Jose due to his poor form and disciplinary issues. Furthermore, the Portuguese coach of Perspolis also dropped Karim Ansarifard , another of Queiroz men , due to poor form. Ansarifard was the league top scorer last season with Saipa last season, but has scored one goal this season with Perspolis.
Outside of Iran, the Team Melli legionnaires did not fare much better either. Masoud Shojaei who has only recently recovered from a long term injury, yet used by Carlos Queiroz in the last two matches for Team Melli, did not even feature in the 18 man squad for Osasuna this weekend. The bottom team of the La Liga registered its fourth loss in 5 matches with 1 point only. Neither of the two performances of Masoud Shojaei was encouraging as the Osasuna man looked heavily lacking match practice and out of sync with his teammates.
The recently transferred Ashkan Dejagah , did not have much better luck with his team Fulham. The Ex-Wolfsburg player and undoubtedly one of the better current Team Melli players, was not included in Fulham’s 18 player squad for the visit to Wigan where the Londoners won the match 2-1. With 9 points and a solid looking team, Dejagah will have a difficult time gaining a regular starting position in Martin Jol’s team thus being deprived of competitive match practice which is so crucial at international level.
Further closer to home, Teymourian and Aghli play in the QSL (Qatar Star League). Aghili was quite unfortunate when he was injured chasing a long ball which eventually resulted in a double whammy for him. Not only his slip cost his team a goal, he also injured his thigh in the process and will be off football for an estimated 1 month ruling him out of the Korea match.
Ando Teymourian who has also played his first official match for Al Kharitiyat , was not much luckier than his compatriot as his slip and misguided wayward header reached the opposition forward player who utilize the mistake by Team Melli midfielder and scored the only goal of the match.
Such events does not augur well for the Portuguese Carlos Queiroz who has been heavily criticized for selecting players from weak performing teams or sticking to players regardless to their current form. His selection of several players for Team Melli while they are not even in their club’s regulars or not even in the squad, has been a source of concern. With such sort of selection , it is no wonder that Team Melli has performed so poorly under Queiroz, as various experts have been quoted. Recently , even Ali Daei , a staunch supporter of Team Melli who has been rarely critical of the team spoke out at Queroz selections , yet the ex-Team Melli coach has demanded that the public support the team and the coach.
While the Football Federation has publically announced their support for Queiroz , it remains to be seen how long this support will last in the current football atmosphere and the tension around Team Melli. Ali Kaffashian , the beleaguered head of Iran’s football federation who himself is in the center of controversy and demands for his removal circulating in the league , has a track record of announcing strong support for a Team Melli coach, yet such verbal support did not prevent him firing the coach. This happened during the FIFA World Cup Qualifiers 2010 when under fire Ali Daei was sacked after the home loss to Saudi Arabia despite the earlier declaration of total support by Kaffashian for Team Melli coach!!
After the series of poor results by Team Melli , the players have boycotted the media and none of them is willing to be interviewed or talk to the press citing unfair criticism of the players. Queiroz ,. Himself has also refrained from answering questions by the press and keeping a low profile. However, he has always maintained his stand that he and Team Melli needs full and unconditional support by everyone.
It remains to be seen what , if any , changes Queroz would do in the players’ selection after these hard times for the current squad and whether Karimi and Ansarifard would be selected again.