Team Melli is only hours away from knowing its fate in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 draw. Iran is in Pot3 with a potential of a tough draw. This is the first time that Team Melli has qualified for the FIFA World cup for a second successive time. This feat was achieved by the Carlos Queiroz and for that, the Portuguese will be forever remembered.
Team Melli was the first Asian side to qualify for this tournament and did so with an impressive 12 consecutive clean sheets. However, the downsize of this record is that Team Melli is hardly exemplary at the front with only an average of 1 goals scored per game.
Queiroz is well known for his philosophy of solid defense and closing all the flanks. His facet of tactics is “reactive football” with a deep-lying defense and quick counterattacks. Queiroz changed the game plan in recent friendlies against Russia, Panama and Venezuela, where Team Melli played with a differently, pressing higher up the pitch and adopting a more aggressive approach.
Carlos Queiroz, despite a temper and petulance that has caused many outwardly senseless controversies in recent years, is very popular in Iran because of the results and performances. The Portuguese is the football equivalent to Donald Trump who picks up fights, with anyone that crosses his line be it a charity worker, footballer, journalist or a club coach. Despite his irritable and vindictive character, most critics believe that he has made a difference in Iran’s football, at least at National Team level by giving Team Melli real character and building a solid group of player. For that, he is much more accomplished in his job that the American President.
What he lacks in finesse and character, Queiroz certainly makes up in coaching skills, passion and man management. Iranian players are not very well versed in discipline or professionalism, but under Queiroz some of Team Melli players with attitudes or transgressions, soon found themselves out of the squad in a flash. The rest heard the message well and learned the lesson. Queiroz, not much of an aficionado of the domestic league, has always preferred Europe-based players, as this gives him some assertion of technical discipline that the domestic leagues sorely lack.
Luckily, there are a large number of players in the current squad that play in Europe, including 3 who actually earn their living in Russia; Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan) , Saeid Ezatolahei ( FC Amkar Perm on loan from FC Rostov) and Milad Mohammadi ( Akhmat Grozny)
Regardless to which teams will be in Iran’s group, Germany, Spain and Nigeria being about the toughest or an easier ride on paper of Russia, Croatia and Panama, Team Melli will be a tough nut to crack.
The fans, however, would wish to see some more courage by Queiroz and less of the “Park the Bus” approach.