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Shehab Gordan, Mehdi Rahmati and Alireza Haghighi

The Goalkeeping dilemma.

Any Iranian fan watching the recent AFC Champions league matches would have been alarmed by the lackluster standard of Iranian goalkeepers. Added to the fact that the recent showing of Team Melli matches where goalkeepers performed poorly, such performances does not instill much confidence in the custodians who form the last frontier of any ambitious team challenging for championships and trophies.

The beautiful free flowing passing game of Naft Tehran deserved much better than the 2-1 defeat in Uzbekistan, as the Persian Gulf League leader fell victim to two horrible and amateurish errors by their goalkeeper Alireza Biranvand which cost them two goals and a defeat, after leading 1-0.

Nearly identical scenario was repeated a day later again in Uzbekistan as Tractorsazi was leading 1-0 before two blunders by their goalkeeper allowed the Uzbeks to win the match 2-1. The culprit goalkeeper was Hamed Lak. His edgy performance was a contributing factor in this defeat.

Persepolis , whose goalkeeper Sasha Makani is very well known for his calamitous performances was spared its blushes when they defeated Lekhwiya of Qatar 3-0 against all the odds. The Qatari league leader with some expensive star players were simply having a day off as Makani was hardly tested.

The common dominator of all these goalkeepers is that Carlos Queiroz has picked the above mentioned goalkeeper for Team Melli at different stages and competitions. Which , for all practical terms and purposes , means they are the best keepers in Iran. Biranvand is still in the list and was part of the last squad in the AFC Cup 2015 in Australia while Makani and Lak have only been recently replaced by Haghighi and Frouzan.

Mehdi Rahmati
Mehdi Rahmati

Haghighi , the surprise pick of the obstinate Portuguese coach , was the main goalkeeper for both the World Cup and Asian Cup. Not surprisingly, his performances have left a lot to be desired. The fans need to be thankful for the outright defensive game plan of Queiroz that has protected Haghighi in goal from being bombarded in both tournaments. However, when the team changed plans and needed to win by playing more offensively , Haghighi and his defense were truly exposed and conceded 6 goals in the last two matches of the two major competitions. 3 goals against Bosnia in the World Cup and three against Iraq in the quarter finals of Asian Cup. To make matters worse, Alireza Haghighi failed  to save any penalty kick in the penalty shootout as Iran was knocked out from the Asian Cup.

haghighi-belarus

All this was happening when two of the most experienced goalkeeper in Iran, Mehdi Rahmati and Rahman Ahmadi , were enjoying a holiday back home as Queiroz did not seem to believe in their abilities nor their skills.

Queiroz issue with Rahmati and some other players is a problem that is quite clearly undermining Team Melli. His personal antipathies against certain staff and players like Khalatbary , Mojtaba Jabbari, Hadi Aghili , Majid Saleh , Ali Karimi  amongst many others are leaving the team handicapped and nothing is more evident than in between the three posts where the absence of the experienced Rahmati was felt.

Queiroz is only a part of the entire problem as Iran’s football system seems to have a distinct lack of ability to produce quality goalkeepers. It is also evident that the goalkeeping coaches are not of a high caliber at clubs and junior teams’ levels.

Iran's goalkeeper Haghighi fails to save a goal by Argentina's Messi during their 2014 World Cup Group F match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte

  Iran’s goalkeeping problem is not new either. For more than a decade, Iran has been suffering from lack of quality goalkeepers. Ebrahim Mirzapour and his generation of keepers did not enhance the reputations of Iranian keepers, before Rahmati came into the scene. However, even Rahmati, arguably still the best keeper in Iran (not according to Queiroz, of course) , had difficulties like poor handling of aerial balls which marred his good records.

While goalkeeping is the least popular of posts amongst young players and good keepers are always in demand, the lack of production of quality keepers which requires a careful study and planning from the root level , could very well be a serious problem in the near future for Team Melli.

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