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.