Category: World Cup 2022

Queiroz’s Master Disaster show!

The writing was on the wall when against England, Carlos Queiroz, always a pig-headed coach, decided that he will have his own formidable defense instead of the one that was excellently built by his predecessor and trusted by Dragan Skocic. Majid Hosseini and Morteza Pouralganji were deemed to be more capable central defenders than the duo of Hossein Kananizadegan and Shojaá Khalilzadeh who served Team Melli superbly and played in almost all the FIFA World Cup qualifiers until Queiroz turned up to turn the table upside down!!

A 6-2 humiliation!

For anyone who is even remotely familiar with Team Melli and its long road to qualification, the combination of Hosseini/Pouralganji was not tested nor has been proven. To add to Team Melli’s woes, out of nowhere really, Ali Karimi and Rozbeh Cheshmi suddenly are the starting lineup players in midfield! Granted that Team Melli’s Midfield is most probably the weakest link, lacking leadership, flair, and physical strength, however, the Karimi/Cheshmi was not the solution as Mr. Queiroz found out very soon after kick-off.  The World Cup is not a place for trials. Since when Karimi/Cheshmi starred for team Melli, I suspect behind the closed door against Tunisia. The coach has the full right to try combinations of his choice, but not in the World Cup. This is not a place for trials. The team lacked meaningful preparation matches and its effects showed against England.  Mistakes like that are costly and unrecoverable most of the time.

This Queiroz horror show was reminiscent of the match in Al Ain when Team Melli collapsed against Japan in the semi-final of the AFC Asian Cup 2019.

But then again, what did the fans expect from the team? All the odds were stacked against Team Melli on and off the field. Changing the coach, a couple of months before the World Cup was a risk, a very big risk. The team was stable, qualified quite easily to the finals, and seemed to be on track to have a successful world cup. But someone had to rock the boat, and that person was Mehdi Taj, a dubious character who left the federation in taters resigning his post while under suspicion of wrongdoing in the Belgian Marc Wilmots contract. The appointment of Wilmots was a disaster, on and off the field. He was a failure on the field as he led Iran to the brink of elimination from the FIFA World Cup qualifiers in the first step. Off the field, it was even worst as his appointment was a financial disaster orchestrated by Mehdi taj.

Taj resigned his post as chief of FFIRI while Team Melli was about to be eliminated, claiming ill health, while this ill health did not prevent him from serving as Vice President of the AFC! And by the mercy of God and the hands of the Mullahs, he turns up again a few months before the World Cup!

Facing one of the strongest teams in the world, in the toughest and highest competitions such as the FIFA World Cup requires management, planning, and intelligence none of which is available in the Iranian football echelon now.  Those who know how to run and manage must be loyalists to the regime, or else their know-how and skill are deposited in the trash bin.

While the FFIRI holds the major responsibility for this embarrassment cum disaster of a show, Queiroz bears the ultimate responsibility. He has the audacity to praise his team, while the statistics and actual performance shows the superiority of the English against his own team and ultimately, the difference between men and boys. Queiroz’s mistakes, poor judgment, and poor selection were indeed an embarrassment of the ultimate kind.

At the end of the day, this government-controlled football federation has paid the price for its chaotic policies, mistaken priorities, and lack of management skills. The damage has been done against England and with it a pride of a nation that always revered its national football team.

As for the players, we all hope that they recover and leave that heavy defeat against England aside. Good results against Wales and USA are still possible if Queiroz regains his sanity. For the sake of the players, who are under immense psychological pressure due to the events in Iran and the widespread killings, Team Melli still requires the support of the fans.

Mehdi Taremi needs a special mention here. His wondergoal remains the only point of pride in this forgettable match.

Team Melli stage silent protest

5 hours ago

While the people of Iran protest back home, the national team sent a powerful message of their own from Qatar. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz conceded his players are “affected by the issue” after a 6-2 defeat by England.

Football is the last thing on most people’s minds in Iran at the moment, but the country’s men’s team used the 2022 World Cup in Qatar to launch a powerful protest.

While the national anthem played ahead of their game against England, the team stood silently, refusing to sing. Their decision was met with raucous cheers from the Iran fans, who tried to drown out the anthem with boos for the music and cheers of support for the players. Some applauded with tears in their eyes.

“Everybody knows the circumstances, the environment of my players is not ideal in terms of commitment and concentration, and they are affected by the issue,” a clearly emotional Carlos Queiroz, head of the Iranian team, said afterward. “They are human beings, they are kids.”

“You don’t even know behind the scenes what these kids have been living in the last few days, just because they want to play football,” Queiroz continued.

Before the game, Iran captain Ehsan Hajsafi expressed his condolences to all the bereaved families in Iran, saying: “They should know that we are with them, we support them and we sympathize with them.”

More than a match

Thousands of Iran fans were at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha and although Iran lost 6-2, it was clear long before kick-off this was much more than another game of international football.

Some fans cheered on their way out of the metro. Some wore t-shirts with the words: “women, life, freedom” written on them. During halftime, an Iranian flag with the same three words was held aloft.

Another fan wore a t-shirt with the message: “75 million. We want change, but not a change that will lead to the destruction of Iran.” One girl, stood with her family, took photos of their tickets and laughed, such was her happiness at having the chance to watch their team play at the World Cup.

Indeed, for many fans attending the game, this was an emotional moment.

“The Iranian regime kills us. I’m here because they killed our children,” Rosita told DW.

“I am here just for Iran, for my country, not the Iranian regime. We hate the Iranian regime. We like Ali Karimi, Ali Daei, we like all people who support Iranian people, not those who don’t support Iranian people.”

“Woman Life Freedom” — the message from Iranian fans at the Khalifa International StadiumImage: Mike Egerton/PA/IMAGO

‘We are Iranian’

For Fatima, this was a moment of joy and pain.

“I’m so happy but the people in my country are so unhappy. It’s the first time I have experienced the World Cup, and I am very happy to be here. In Iran, women are not allowed to go to the stadium,” Fatima said. “This is the first time my brother and I go to the stadium.”

In August this year, for the first time in over four decades, Iranian authorities allowed female football fans to attend a men’s league match.

“All Iranian people I think have their hearts with the people in Iran. We are Iranian, all of us,” Behman said before the game.

Some fans didn’t want to talk or wanted the conversation to be about football.

“We are gathering here as football fans to enjoy the game and not to talk about what’s happening in Iran,” said Abdallah.

Iran's players stand together, united in not signing the country's national anthem
Iran’s players stood together, united in not signing the country’s national anthem images: Han Yan/Xinhua/IMAGO

Months of unrest

Ever since the death of 22-year-old Jina Mahsa Amini in September, protests against the government across the country have spread. At Amini’s funeral, the words “women, life, freedom” were first sung. They became a rallying cry across Iran as civil unrest unfolded. Hundreds of protesters are reported to have been killed and thousands more detained.

Before the World Cup began, Iran’s record goal scorer and former Bayern Munich striker Ali Daei refused an invitation to attend the tournament in a show of solidarity with Iranian protesters. During the Iran game, there were chants of support for Daei and Karimi.

In September, star player and Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun posted on Instagram saying: “My heart breaks for Mahsa Amini… I will always support you…  I hope that one day your place in this country will be justified and I hope that the women of my country will never suffer the same.”

Many thought he might not even make the World Cup squad when, after having blacked out his Instagram profile picture in support of the protests, Azmoun posted more support on Instagram stories, saying: “That is worth sacrificing for one strand of Iranian women’s hair. Shame on you who kill people so easily. Long live Iranian women.”

But Azmoun is there in Qatar and although he didn’t start against England he did come off the bench. When he took to the field, he was met with a huge cheer from the crowd — the same was not true for Mehdi Torabi when he came on.

From the protest during the anthem to the visible emotion in the stands and Queiroz’s words late on, this was a historic day for Iranian football. Two goals were cheered late on, but for many here it was clear the desired victory lies beyond the football fields of Qatar.

Iran uprising seen through the eyes of Iranian women

Iran’s Ehsan Hajsafi: ‘The conditions in our country are not right’

The Guardian
Monday 21 November 2022

In a significant, politically freighted intervention, Iran’s captain Ehsan Hajsafi has said he would be happy for his team to serve as a force for change in a country where protests against the regime in Tehran continue to escalate.

As Iran’s government faces its most critical moment since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Hajsafi, a left-back at AEK Athens, on Sunday night addressed a press conference before his team’s opening World Cup group game against England in Doha on Monday.

“We have to accept the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” he said. “We are here but it does not mean we should not be their voice or we must not respect them. “Whatever we have is from them. We have to fight. We have to perform and score some goals to present the brave people of Iran with a result. I hope conditions change as to the expectations of the people.”

A popular uprising has been gaining momentum since September after the death of Mahsa Amini, a 22‑year‑old detained by the country’s morality police for allegedly not covering her head properly.

Since then protests against the rules forcing women to wear the hijab have expanded into widespread discontent with the country’s strict theocracy, with more than 380 people said to have been killed by security forces.

As a byproduct, Carlos Queiroz’s team has been placed in the unenviable position of being required to represent the Islamic republic while being under intense pressure to support millions of protesting compatriots. “The situation in Iran is very difficult,” said Hajsafi, who is aware human rights groups have called for Iran’s expulsion from the World Cup.

Tellingly, before taking questions he opened by offering support for those who had lost loved ones during the recent turmoil. “I would like to express my condolences to all the bereaved families,” he said. “They should know we are with them, we support them and we sympathize with them.”

A key moment will arrive shortly before kick-off when members of a squad thought to be still slightly divided as to how to respond must take individual decisions as to whether to sing a national anthem, all about glorifying the 1979 revolution.

It all dictated that, at the end of a day in which light winds whipped through Doha, creating piles of dust at almost every turn, Queiroz found himself at the eye of a diplomatic sandstorm he opted to ignore on Sunday.

Iran’s Portuguese coach, and former assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United, preferred to concentrate on a different type of whirlwind. “England have a storm of talent,” the 69-year-old said as he smothered Gareth Southgate with flattery. “England are one of the top teams in the world. They are a contender to be the world champion. They have fantastic, strong talent and a great coach.”

It will be the first time Queiroz has faced England and he claimed not to have sought any advice from Ferguson. “I did not receive any help from Scotland,” he said. “Of course, we talk frequently as friends. But you can relax!”

He then launched into an ode to English players, claiming they were superior to the team of recent predecessors dominated by David Beckham, Rio Ferdinand, and Paul Scholes. “This new generation of players Southgate is bringing for the national team in my opinion is probably the most competitive English team since 1966 that I have the opportunity to see – and I remember that team very well. But this team is very functional, very practical, very realistic.

“I worked with the generation of Rio, of Paul Scholes. Fantastic players, David Beckham and all those guys. But this national team is really different. They make a realistic approach to every single game which makes them very, very dangerous.”

Although Queiroz said Iran believed they could reach the knockout stage he confessed Monday would contain a surreal quality. “For many of our players to play against England is like magic, it’s a gift,” he said. “Since watching football as kids, it’s been a lifelong dream for my players to play in this game. We will enjoy it.”

ENGLAND v IRAN : Match review

England v Iran
FIFA World Cup, Qatar 2022
Group B Qualifier

16:30 Iran Time
13:00 GMT, Monday 21 November 2022
Khalifa International Stadium – Dolha

Team Melli begins the 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign against the Three Lions in what will be the first-ever meeting between the nations at the senior level.
Iran, was drawn out against Gareth Southgate’s England, USA and Wales at the draw in Doha on 1 April.

  • ● This will be the first-ever encounter between England and Iran. Team Melli has never beaten European opposition at the FIFA World Cup (D2 L6).
  • This is the third time in a row that Carlos Queiroz has coached Iran in the World Cup.
  • Iran has qualified for the third World Cup in a row since WC2014. A first in the Team’s history
  • ● England have qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the 16th time. It’s their seventh appearance in a row, their longest streak in the competition.
  • ● England set the best goal difference in the group stage of European qualifiers for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, scoring 39 goals and conceding only three (+36).
  • ● England are the only European team to have reached the semi-finals in each of the last two major tournaments (FIFA World Cup + EURO).
  • ● 12 of England’s last 18 goals at the FIFA World Cup have been scored from set-pieces. In fact, 75% of their goals in 2018 came from dead ball situations (9 out of 12).
  • ● Iran have never progressed past the first round of the FIFA World Cup, winning only two of their 15 matches (v USA in 1998 and Morocco in 2018). This is their sixth participation in the tournament, including their third in a row.
  • ● Iran have scored nine goals in 15 FIFA World Cup matches; at 0.6, it’s the lowest goals-per-game ratio of any nation to play more than 10 games in the competition. They’ve only netted more than once in one of their 15 games, a 2-1 win over the USA in 1998.
  • ● Gareth Southgate has guided England to the last four in each of his two tournaments as national team head-coach. Only Sir Alf Ramsey can boast a similar record as England boss (WC winners in 1966, Euro semi-finalists in 1968).
  • ● England striker Harry Kane was the top scorer in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, with five of his six goals coming in the group stages. No player has ever been top/joint-top scorer at two different World Cup tournaments.
  • ● Despite only playing six times, no Iran player was involved in more goals during the third round of Asian World Cup qualifying than Mehdi Taremi (4 goals, 2 assists).

Coach: Carlos Quieroz
Qualified from: First in AFC qualifying group
Qualifying top scorer: Mehdi Taremi (Porto)
FIFA World Cup best performance: group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018)

Form guide

After consecutive defeats to group rivals Bahrain and Iraq respectively in late 2019, Iran looked like they wouldn’t even make it through to the last round of Asian qualifying, let alone reach a third straight World Cup finals. Then COVID-19 hit, and Iran were able to push the reset button. Coach Marc Wilmots was replaced, Iran won their four remaining second-round games – all played in neutral Bahrain because of the pandemic – and never looked back. They won eight out of ten games in round three to qualify alongside fellow AFC big hitters South Korea.


Off the back of seven years coaching in Iran’s domestic leagues, Dragan Skocic was seen as a safe pair of hands when he took over from Wilmots in February 2020. Although Iran’s demanding fans would prefer their team to play on the front foot, defence was the bedrock of their success under the Croat, with just five goals conceded in 14 qualifiers. Skocic – who had experimented with a variety of attacking shapes in front of his favoured back four – was dismissed as head coach in July, only to be immediately reinstated. But his stay of execution didn’t last long and, in early September, the new president of the Iranian Football Federation, Mehdi Taj, replaced Skocic with Carlos Queiroz, the former Manchester United assistant and Real Madrid coach who led Iran at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups.

World Cup pedigree

Despite qualifying for the finals six times, including four of the last six, Iran have never progressed beyond the group stage, although they did come close in 2018, beating Morocco and drawing with Portugal in a tough group also containing Spain.

Stars on show

In front of a compact defense and industrious midfield, Iran relies heavily on the mercurial attacking talents of Mehdi Taremi and Sardar Azmoun – who have been prolific goalscorers for Porto and Bayer Leverkusen respectively, and the creativity of Feyenoord’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who Premier League fans might remember from his three seasons with Brighton & Hove Albion. During the qualifiers, the central back duo Shojaá Khalilzadeh and Hossein Kananizadegan created a formidable defense in front of the goal.


Iran: Top star Sardar Azmoun is doubtful for the England game. It is not clear if he has trained since arriving in Doha to join the Team Melli squad. There are no more injuries reported amongst the players since the match against Tunisia was played behind closed doors, and little if any information is available.

England: Kyle Walker is traveling with the English team while not fully fit. It is almost certain that he will miss the first match against Iran. James Maddison is also a doubt as he missed training today in favor of some light work in the gym.



The Mind Game in the FIFA World Cup.

There have been many mutterings about Team Melli qualifying from Group B of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 for the first time in six attempts. Although these expectations have cooled recently, it is natural that fans look upon Team Melli to send several messages in these black days of the Iranian nation.

Political unrest and the daily news of deaths, injuries, arrests, riots, and disturbances across Iran in the aftermath of the death of Mahsa Amini in the custody of the notorious Morality Police have confused and dampened the interest of many Iranians including those who are living abroad. There is a clear and definite split of opinions on the status of the Team representing Iran in the World Cup. While many believe that this team is a representative of a brutal regime and is being used as a propaganda tool for the Islamic republic leading many to demand from FIFA to kick the Team out of the World Cup, others still firmly believe that this team represents the people and its honors equated to national honors that make people happy and pride in a country where many people do not have a sense of happiness and experiencing extreme hardship under a tyrannical and authoritarian regime.

The mood of the players and their psychological status means a world of difference in whether the team makes it to the next round.

Carlos Queiroz’s arrival from the backdoor was the first shock to Team Melli. The majority of the players religiously believed in their fired ex-boss Dragan Skocic. The Croat and beyond any shadow of a doubt, performed a miracle by qualifying for the world cup while they were on the brink of being eliminated in the second round under Marc Wilmots. Skočić, was treated cruelly, not much dissimilar from the way that the regime treats its own people. As a result of his dismissal and the arrival of Queiroz, the splits and differences grew within the players themselves. Although the official media talks about the harmony and unity of the team. it is far from true with players still suffering the bitter split between the groups.

Then come the post-Mahsa Amini events and the uprising of the people. Another split in the team has grown as many Team Melli players publicly supported the uprising and spoke against the regime publicly or through social media. Those who did not dare to speak out chose the road of muted celebrations which became quite common with many sporting teams in Iran.  Some player lost their chance of being in the squad because of these expressions of support. There are also pro-regime players in Team Melli and all the coaches are well aware that these are untouchables. This minority of players remain to keep a low profile

It remains to be seen how the differences, stress, and low morale will affect the overall performance of Team Melli in Doha.

On the pitch, since Queiroz’s arrival, Team Melli is not exactly shining either. A very good result against Uruguay and a draw against Senegal two high-ranked teams mistakingly led many to believe in the Queiroz Magical touch effect and high expectations. Then Iran played against a lowly Nicaragua and managed a slim shy 1-0 victory, while in the next game Team Melli was beaten 2-0 by Tunisia a powerful African team playing in the World Cup. A reality check.

The other concern is that Queiroz is known to have a blind belief in Legionnaires. He hardly has any interest in the domestic league players. Considering that Queiroz will for sure give the Legionnaires priority, the worry lies in these players’ recent performances and forms. Apart from Porto’s Mehdi Taremi, the rest have done miserably badly in the European Leagues. Sardar Azmoun has been injured for a long period and is still recovering as we speak, but even before his unfortunate injury, he was not exactly shining for Bayer Leverkusen.  Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Saman Ghoddos are nearly permanent bench players. None of them scored a goal in the league competition. Beiranvand despite changing two clubs in Europe could not make the grade there and returned back after two seasons. Ansarifard, Hajsafi, and Mohammadi were fringe players in their Greek club, the former was unceremonially pushed out of AEK Athena to the Cyprus league. Saeid Ezzatollahi who is called the Marco Polo of Iranian football has traveled across many countries and clubs, never settled down anywhere and now he is in the World Cup playing for a second-division Danish Club !!!

Gholizadeh is not faring well either, while Allahyar Sayyedmanish has missed the World Cup altogether through injury.

So, it is clear that the players Queiroz depends on are not at top form with many lacking proper game times. It is doubtful that these few days they are together will turn the team into a fighting force.

 There is no argument that England is by far a superior team to Iran and the first match on November 21st will be the toughest test for Team Melli. If circumstances were different, we would have most probably put a few dollars on Iran drawing or even defeating England as the Brits are not at their best form either. A series of defeats, relegation from the European Nations League, and a reputation for failure at critical moments are all stacked against the English Team.

The weather in Qatar is still not ideal either. Temperature and Humidity are major factors, in the discomfort of Europeans in general despite the stadium air conditioning system.

The preparatory matches against Nicaragua and Tunisia, will not have any positive effect from a technical point of view and can only improve the team’s mental state. On the positive side, Queiroz excels in the mental preparation of his players. He knows his opponents well and his successful reading of the England team is the most important step in Iran’s dream of qualification. Of course, a positive result against England is not the end of the road, as two well-prepared and capable opponents are waiting to defeat Iran. a team that all others group members think is beatable.

There will be a mind game played between Iran and England so that will be the case against the USA. Western propaganda will not leave politics alone and will intimidate the players anytime they feel like it. That is their game. Anything to lower the morale of the players and remind them that they are playing for a regime that kills and tortures its own people.  At this stage apart from the fact that England is the favorite and its fans will continue singing ” It is Coming Home”. the rest is difficult to call. If Iran stands a chance, it has to be based on its mental strength and the physical attributes of its defenders. When it comes to tactics and game plans, there is admittedly a gap, but football is notorious for unpredictable results.

Saman Ghoddos on Iran, the World Cup and ‘playing for the people’

Miguel Delaney  – The Independent

Saman Ghoddos visibly considers his words, but he has clearly thought about what he is going to say. The Brentford forward does not want to stay silent on an issue of such importance. The stakes for Ghoddos, however, are much greater than just offering a statement on Qatar’s issues in the way most other World Cup players might.
The 29-year-old knows he is going to be asked about the political strife in Iran, where the state security forces have killed hundreds in shutting down nationwide protests over the death of Mahsa Amini, who was beaten in police custody after allegedly breaking rules on mandatory head coverings. He has agreed to an interview because of it, though, and shows considerable courage with his comments.

“Everybody wants to see a change,” Ghoddos says. “It’s a change that is very easy. What the people want is nothing special. It’s just freedom and I don’t want to say ‘Yeah, go fight for it’ because I don’t think violence is the right way. But something has to change and this has been going on for too long.”

If the words seem simple, they come from a hugely difficult situation, not least because of the intense focus on this Iranian team. Speaking out could bring significant repercussions, given the government have just issued the first death sentence over demonstrations. There’s also the fact that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s state are seeking to politically use the World Cup to present an image of normality.

Ghoddos nevertheless feels that players “of course” have some responsibility. He says the squad had been messaging about it “almost every day” before they met up this week.

“No one is happy about it,” Ghoddos says. “I don’t want to mix politics with football but football is coming to the side right now because people are losing their lives fighting for freedom… clearly a change needs to come, and it has already been going on for so long. We all want change.

“If you think it’s the right thing to do, I think you should because you’re a famous athlete. If you can put a light on what’s going on you should do it – with pressure or without pressure because it’s the right thing to do.”

It almost feels wrong to be discussing football in that context. It is why England’s opening game is one of the most politicized fixtures of this highly politicized World Cup. The United Kingdom’s fractious history with Iran feeds into the political strife, the state’s regional alliance with the controversial nation, and the recent claims that Khamenei’s regime is supplying drones to Russia in the Ukrainian war.

All of that has led to multiple calls that the team be thrown out of the World Cup. Ghoddos is diplomatic and nuanced on that, even though this is his dream.

“I’ve been reading about it and people have been asking my opinion about it. I understand what they are talking about and where they are coming from. But I don’t know if it’s the right decision to kick us out. I don’t know if it’s the right move for me. I don’t know if anything will change because of that. It’s better to change what the real problem is, not to kick the football side out of the World Cup. That’s my opinion.

“Everybody can see what’s going on, it’s not so pleasant, and if we can put a light on what’s happening and if we can make a change in that way, that would be a good thing.”

There’s also a notable comment later on, when Ghoddos talks of how they “play for people in Iran” – not the state. This is where the debates on these topics become so complicated, going right back to Argentina 1978 and even Russia 2018, because the population’s football culture will always be distinct from ruling powers.

Ghoddos does admittedly come from this with a different perspective than many of his teammates. He grew up in Sweden after his parents migrated, and was initially a Swedish international with two caps and a goal. Ghoddos hadn’t even visited Iran until he made the switch in 2017. That never meant he felt any less Iranian, though. He couldn’t.

“We spoke Iranian and had this culture in my home. I was never able to go because, every time my parents were flying there, I had an important football game or something like this.

“There are so many Iranians in Sweden and in the city I was born in, Malmo.”

That naturally means he has memories of his country’s previous appearances in World Cups, not least the emotional impact of another of the most politicized fixtures.

“I was five years old in 1998 but I remember the celebration against the USA,” he says of Iran’s historic 2-1 win. “We always taped the World Cup and watched it every time after school.”

Iran famously beat the United States in 1998 (Getty Images)

Iran famously beat the United States in 1998 (Getty Images)© Provided by The Independent

Playing through the Swedish football system meant it was natural to accept a call-up when asked for two friendlies, as tends to be the case for many of dual nationality. If Ghoddos didn’t exactly experience any internal debate about his choice, it was Iran manager Carlos Quieroz who offered some certainty.

“I was in the squad and for me it was a big honour but then I didn’t hear anything from Sweden. I didn’t think I was going to start. Then I got a call from Carlos Queiroz wondering if I would like to play for Iran. I never thought about it and I said ‘yeah of course’. He said he would invite me to a camp but he won’t play me because he doesn’t want to put pressure on me, and then I’m stuck to Iran.

“So he said ‘I will invite you, you train with us, and then for the next camp you can choose by yourself. For me, that was like ‘this is amazing. I’d heard about these players who get one minute [for one country] and then they’re stuck, then they can’t change, and I really appreciated the way he did it. Then Sweden wanted me to play. For me, it felt like it’s a bit too late now… so I said I want to play for Iran. I made my decision.”

His parents only ever encouraged Ghoddos to do what felt right, as they would be proud regardless, but his decision felt perfect when he experienced the response of his extended family.

“They’re just so happy every time I go with the national team and to be able to play and have their last name on my back. That’s a proud moment for them and that makes me happy.

“I never thought the people were so into football in Iran, and the kindness they have. It was very big for me.”

It felt even better when he was picked for the 2018 World Cup.

“That was the biggest thing I’d done in my life. I was like ‘I need to do this again.’ The atmosphere was something else. You just feel the energy. Now we’re there, it’s a very special moment for me. I’m very proud. I’ll try to make the best of it.

“I’m trying to get my family to come and watch but flights and hotels are very difficult. We have some rooms we can give them and the flight tickets from me. I’m trying to get them as much as possible because the World Cup is every four years and you need to be there. My family wasn’t in Russia but my friends came and they will talk about it their whole life so I’m trying to get my family, as many as possible, to come and watch.”

It reminds of the other side of the political use of football, which is the people’s enjoyment of it. It is all the more reason that Ghoddos feels an obligation – as well as an optimism. He firmly believes Iran can get out of the group for the first time.

“I rate it very high. If I’m looking at the squad for the other World Cups, I think this is the best Iran has ever had. The players we have right now, Mehdi Taremi doing well with Porto in Champions league level, same with Sardar Azmoun at Bayer Leverkusen. OK, maybe before with Ali Daei, Ali Karimi, these were exceptional players but it wasn’t so many. Now it feels like there are more of us, it’s more like a team spirit we have. It’s the same like with Brentford. We are really together and I think, with that, you can go through even if you are not as good a team on paper.

“Of course we are underdogs against England. That’s nothing to hide. I would rather fight from the underdog position and try to achieve something from there.”

Ghoddos played at the 2018 tournament (Getty Images)

Ghoddos played at the 2018 tournament (Getty Images)© Provided by The Independent

The manager, Queiroz, is well versed in that. His football isn’t always enjoyable, but it is effective. The Portuguese made Iran a hugely difficult team to play against in the last two World Cups, bringing both Spain and Portugal to the brink of elimination in 2018 – as Quieroz’s team finished on four points to their five apiece – and forcing Argentina into a stoppage-time long-range winner from Lionel Messi in 2014. Monday is unlikely to be all that enjoyable for England.

Iran are going to be very well drilled. Queiroz has been sending the players videos of what he wants for weeks.

“You know when you’re coming in what you have to do,” Ghoddos says. “It’s very tactical and the message he is sending is very clear. Everybody knows their job, and he’s trying to put it in your spine. Like, if the ball is here, you have to do this – and it’s every day.”

That tactical application will be reinforced by an emotional intensity. The Iranian squad don’t actually play national music in the dressing room, because it’s “more beautiful music”, as Ghoddos puts it. They want to be pumped.

“Right now it’s the Stormzy song, Mel Made Me Do It,” Ghoddos laughs.

“But it’s very important to make sure the energy does not get to you because when you have too much it can affect your game. As long as you can see it as a normal game, of course, you need the energy to get to a new level and we’ll need that but it will be so special because if, you play for people in Iran, the energy and level we have will help us.”

Those last few words are among the most significant of all. Ghoddos sees himself as playing for the people – and he’s been courageous in speaking for them.

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Team Melli flies to Doha after finalizing the squad.

Carlos Queiroz announced Team Melli’s squad for the FIFA World Cup 2022 with predictable familiar names but with a bit of a small twist. The team flew to Doha to start preparation which includes a friendly game behind closed doors against Tunisia in Doha on 16th Nov.

A couple of additions to the squad that was not in the normal Queiroz favorites list are Ali Karimi and Abolfazl Jalali. These two additions plus the surprise omission of Omid  Noorafkan, are generating a few interesting discussions amongst the faithful Team Melli fans.

By selecting these players, Iran’s team is officially the oldest team in the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Confirmed squad

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina), Seyed Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Payam Niazmand (Sepahan)

Defenders: Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens), Morteza Pouraliganji (Persepolis), Ramin Rezaeian (Sepahan), Milad Mohammadi (AEK Athens), Hossein Kanaanizadegan (Al Ahli), Shojae Khalilzadeh (Al Ahli), Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Abolfazl Jalali (Esteghlal)

Midfielders: Ahmad Noorollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Saman Ghoddos (Brentford), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saeid Ezatolahi (Vejle), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Ali Gholizadeh (Charleroi), Ali Karimi (Kayserispor)

Forwards: Karim Ansarifard (Omonia Nicosia), Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen), Mehdi Taremi (Porto)

England World Cup 2022 squad announced

GARETH SOUTHGATE has named his 26-man squad for England’s World Cup campaign with Conor Gallagher and Callum Wilson the shock picks.

The Three Lions manager has whittled down his 55-man provisional list to the special 26.

After announcing his selections, Southgate said: “We’re excited by the group. We think there’s a lot of talent within it.

“But the group has to come together. We’ve got to adapt better than anybody else in the coming period.”

Harry Kane will once again spearhead Southgate’s troops, looking to win his first competition.

The Spurs man was the top scorer at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Jordan Pickford has never let anyone down for England, and he will be given the gloves in Qatar. The much-maligned Harry Maguire might not have found much form for Manchester United this season, but he is one of Southgate’s favorites in the squad.

James Maddison’s inclusion is arguably the biggest talking point. He appears to have finally won over Southgate after his stunning form for Leicester dragged them off the bottom of the Premier League.

Iran is the first of England’s opponents on 21st Nov 2022.

Unsold tickets send to Iran creates a mini controversy!

A number of unsold quota tickets for Qatar residents have been donated to Iran.

Those gifted unsold tickets have created quite a bit of argument and debate among the Iranians. The Deputy Minister of Sports emphasizes that 90% of these tickets have been given to sports historians and non-football athletes. According to ISNA, filling the World Cup stadiums in the small country of Qatar is one of the challenges of the organizing committee in is period of the World Cup, and that is, in some matches, the residents of the host country may not be interested in buying tickets for that game. In this regard, Qatar recently donated a number of tickets from the quota of its residents in the group stage of the World Cup to Iran.

The tickets, according to some comments, have raised suspicions that it might end up sending Iranian Islamic clerics to Qatar to do cultural  (missionary) work, a matter that the cultural deputy minister of sports denies. In an interview with ISNA, Sina Kalhor, the vice-president of culture and public sports of the Ministry of Sports and Youth, said: “Regarding the tickets donation package from the Qatari side, several points should be taken into consideration. First of all, these tickets are for the residents of Qatar and they were given to Iran because those tickets were unsold locally. The exact number of these tickets is 1800.”

He continued: “Unlike the tickets that the football federation has, these tickets cannot be sold in the market and are mainly for the third row of sports stadiums. However, there is a possibility that the Qatari side will declare all these 1,800 tickets invalid at the last moment. Emphasizing that there is only one cleric among the names announced for these tickets to the Qatari side,” Kalhor added: “There is a cleric on the list sent to the Qatari side, and that is the Director General of Culture of the Ministry of Sports and Youth. Almost 90% of these tickets have been distributed among football historians, journalists, and non-football athletes. Another 10 percent has been provided to the Ministry of Cultural & Heritage and the Ministry of Guidance for cultural activities. The Deputy Minister of Sports and Youth continued: “The management of seminaries have also announced in an official letter that they will not send any clerics to Qatar and have no plans for the World Cup in Qatar.”

FIFA has called on the teams participating in the Qatar WC to “focus on football”.

FIFA has called on the teams participating in the controversial Qatar World Cup to “focus on football” and stop “handing out moral lessons” in a letter revealed by Sky News on Thursday. Qatar has faced criticism for its human rights record on the treatment of foreign workers on major infrastructure projects for the World Cup, on women’s rights, and LGBTQ rights. Homosexuality is illegal in the Gulf state and captains from a number of leading European countries, including England, France, and Germany, will wear armbands in rainbow colors with the message “One Love” in an anti-discrimination campaign.

Last week, the Australian national team condemned the “suffering” of migrant workers.

“Please let’s now focus on the football!” FIFA president Gianni Infantino and secretary general Fatma Samoura said in a letter sent to all 32 World Cup teams, confirmed to AFP by world football’s governing body.

“We know football does not live in a vacuum and we are equally aware that there are many challenges and difficulties of a political nature all around the world.

“But please do not allow football to be dragged into every ideological or political battle that exists.”

Qatar organizers have defended the country’s rights record.

After the Australian players’ criticism, a World Cup spokesperson said imposing “robust” labor laws had also been a “challenge” for Australia.

Earlier this week, the Arab League states slammed criticism of Qatar as a “defamation campaign” ahead of the tournament.

“One of the great strengths of the world is indeed its very diversity, and if inclusion means anything, it means having respect for that diversity,” continued the FIFA letter.

“No one people or culture or nation is ‘better’ than any other.”

Qatar Labour Minister Ali bin Samikh Al Marri told AFP on Wednesday that calls for a new compensation fund for migrant workers was a “publicity stunt”. He also accused some of the country’s critics of “racism”.

“They don’t want to allow a small country, an Arab country, an Islamic country, to organize the World Cup,” Marri said.

In 2010, Qatar clinched the rights to the World Cup after winning a ballot of Fifa’s 22 executive members. It defeated bids from the US, South Korea, Japan, and Australia. It is the first Middle Eastern nation to host the tournament

The irony is that many countries criticizing Qatar think that the host has to change its culture, labor laws, and religious practice just for the sake of a few players kicking a ball around. Issues such as gay rights or migrant abuse are two of a series of political and social issues that are being used to disrupt the hosting of the FIFA World Cup.

Apart from the sore loser Australia that lost to Qatar in the 2010 voting, all other calls are from European countries who have a plethora of social issues themselves which have not been solved and countries where the far right,  racist and fascist in their ideologies, are slowly but firmly gaining strength. 

Then there is the hypocrisy of these countries. Qatar has not changed much and not yielding to their demands, yet not a single qualified country is willing to withdraw. Many European countries boycotted the Moscow 1980 Olympics, but none did the same when the USA invaded Afghanistan and then Iraq !!

There is far too much money at stake in the FIFA World Cup!