Tag: AFC Asian Cup 2023

Ghalenoei invites Afhsin Ghotbi to join Team Melli coaching team.

Amir Ghalenoei, the head coach of Team Melli, has invited a former head coach to work with him as an assitance/advisor.

In a TV show, Amir Ghalenoei, after praising Afshin Ghotbi’s past performance, invited the American-Iranian coach to help the national football team by being in Iran.

Afshin Ghotbi was in charge of Team Melli in the AFC Asian Cup 2011 where Iran were eliminated in the quarter finals against Korea Republic.

It is not known whether Ghalenoei, after his failuire to take Team Melli to the final of the AFC Asian Cup 2023 following a 3-2 defeat against the eventual champions Qatar, has officially invited Ghotbi through FFIRI or is it one of his ususal praises that he casually extends to lots of people.

Afshin Ghotbi was the head coach of Team Melli from 1st April 2009 until 22 January 2011. He manged the team in 30 matches winning 16 , drawing 6 nd 8 losses. He is currently the head coach of Canadian Premier League side Vancouver FC.

Iran is one spot higher in FIFA Ranking.

Team Melli climbed one spot higher to number 20 in the world in the first FIFA Ranking published in 2024. Iran is also closing the gap on Japan which slipped one spot down to 18th, however, despite the loss in the quarter-finals to Iran, Japan is still the top-ranked Asian Team followed by Iran.

Korea Republic climbed one place up while Australia climbed to 23rd.

There is plenty of movement further down the standings following the matches contested in the CAF Africa Cup of Nations and the AFC Asian Cup. Amongst the African sides, Ivory Coast jumped 10 spots to be placed 39th, reaping the rewards of their continental triumph on home soil, secured following an eventful AFCON campaign.

The FIFA rankings serve as a testament to the current global football landscape, reflecting the performances and achievements of national teams worldwide. As the football calendar progresses, these rankings will likely witness shifts and changes based on upcoming tournaments and events. Football enthusiasts eagerly await the unfolding of the year’s sporting events that will inevitably impact these influential standings.

AFCON runners-up Nigeria sit at 28th after jumping 14 places making significant strides but are no match for Angola (93rd, up 24), a side they ousted in the last eight, who are the biggest climbers in the latest installment of the global ranking. Two-time Asian Cup winners Qatar (37th, up 21) chalk up the biggest tally (92.04 points) after capitalizing on home comforts to successfully defend their continental crown.

Elsewhere, Jordan (70th, up 17), who was edged out in the Asian Cup final, make good ground, as do Thailand (101st, up 12), whose journey came to an end at the last-16 stage.

Team Melli breezes past Palestine

Team Melli started its challenge for the AFC Asian Cup with a predicted win in front of 7,691 spectators against Palestine at Education City Stadium refereed by Abdul Rahman Al Jassim from Qatar. The match saw the observance of a one-minute silence for the victims of the Israeli-American attack on Gazza, which ended 4-1 for Iran. In the other game of Group C, the UAE won three to one against Hong Kong to get off to a good start.

Team Melli stormed in the lead as it took Karim Ansarifard just about a minute to open the scoring from a Saman Ghoddos assist.

Ten minutes later, Saman Ghoddos, sent a free kick to the far corner of Palestine where Shoja’a Khalilzadeh was lurking after he cleverly lost his marker. The center-back, met the ball finishing into the net to give Iran a 2-0 lead. With two early goals, Team Melli had comfortable time to pass the ball around. However, the Palestinian team embarked on a rough play and was lucky to escape with only six yellow cards by the end of the match.

In the 37th minute, the beautiful teamwork resulted in the third goal. Alireza Jahanbakhsh received the ball just outside of Palestine’s box. He then sent a weighted ball for the onrushing Mehdi Ghayedi on his left. The tiny winger made no mistake sending a powerful shot to the far right corner of the Palestinian keeper Rami Hamadah. 3-0 for Iran and still plenty of minutes until the end of the first half.

The rough game of the opponents resulted in its first casualty for Iran as Khalilzadeh, the scorer of the second goal had to leave the field after a wild tackle from the Palestinian player.

The final minutes of the half, saw quite a blunder by Saeed Ezatollahi on a free kick for Palestine. Instead of clearing the ball away, he headed it right in front of Palestine forward, Tamer Seyam who had the easy task of finishing it into the net of hapless Beiranvand. Ezatollahi’s gift was unexpected and it created the loudest cheer of the day in Education City.

In the second half, Azmoun and Mohebbi replaced Ansarifard and Ghayedi. So, all Team Melli scorers have left the field. The rough game of the Palestinians continued but that did not prevent Sardar from scoring Iran’s fourth and his 50th goal in an Iranian Jersey to equal Karim Bagheri’s record.

There were lots of missed opportunities by Team Melli while Beirnvand made a great save near the end of the second half. Mehdi Taremi was unfortunate not to score. He had many chances but could not make any count.

The excellent performance of Saman Ghoddos who had two assists in this game, earned him the Most Valuable Player of the match. Sadegh Moharrami was at his best and a delight to watch. Ramin Rezaeian played a few minutes and despite not creating any chances, he seemed to be fit for the coming matches. That is crucial for Team Melli.

Iran leads the table with 3 points ahead of UAE who beat Hong Kong 3-1, on goal difference. Team Melli will meet Hong Kong next to consolidate the lead.

AFC Asian Cup 2023: The contenders in action

On the third day of the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, two contenders for the title will start their campaign under different conditions.

Japan and Iran the two top-ranked teams in Asia will start against Vietnam and Palestine respectively.

For the Japanese, who are everyone’s favorite to lift the trophy, it is a difficult start against a stubborn team in Vietnam, however, the odds of losing even a point are quite low as Japan is in top form in years.

Palestine is another tough team to beat. The goalkeeper and the defense line of Team Melli will have a comfortable shift but the midfield and the forward line will have to do all the work to break the stubborn Palestine defense. The 99th-ranked team in the FIFA Ranking can frustrate the Iranians as they have already done to a few teams before.

With Sardar Azmoun being a late joiner to the squad in Doha, he may start the match on the bench while Taremi will have Asadi or Moghanlou partnering him in the attack. Jahanbakhsh will occupy the right wing and Mohebbi will be pushing from behind the trio. Saman Ghoddos will be the maestro of the midfield. His performance is the key to the success of the team. Gholizadeh has a good chance of partnering with Ghoddos, while Ezatollahi will operate as the holding midfielder.

the status of Ramin Rezaeian’s injury is not clear yet. He would have been ideal for a match like this where the opposition packs its defenses in two layers.

The slight injury to Beiranvand is still a worry, but with Hosseini and Nizmand, there should not be any alarms as both are capable of covering for Ali Beiranvand in case he is unable to start.

Earlier in the day UAE meets Hong Kong in the same group at Khalifa International stadium

Who will lift the AFC Asian Cup 2023?

Predicting the team that will lift the AFC Asian Cup is not something that has any value at this stage as football, time and again, has proven to be a strange game, full of surprises, and winning a title in the most prestigious tournament can have twists and turns that not even the best analyst can predict.

However, what can be said makes sense is the ranking and performance of the teams beforehand and the expected results based on the earlier performance.

Japan: Without a shadow of a doubt, Japan sits right at the top of the ranking and their chances of lifting the trophy for the fourth time are quite high. Not only did the Japanese perform well at the Asian level, they even managed to beat the best of Europe in their own home. A 4-1 result against Germany will stand as a monument of the might of the Japanese and the resilience, power, and strength of depth of this team. Japan also put 4 past Turkey and Canada also beat Tunisia 2-0. Before that Japan toyed with El Salvador beating them 6-0 and five days later Japan gave Peru a lesson in football with a 4-1 win just before humiliating Germany 4-1.

It does not take much expertise to predict that Japan is the team to beat. that is easier said than done.


Coach: Hajime Moriyasu (from 2018-)

Injured or Suspect Players: Takehiro Tomiyasu (Arsenal) – Kaoru Mitoma (Brighton)


Odds: 1 : 3.2


South Korea has a star-studded squad, and by the virtue of having perhaps the best Asian footballer in Son Heung-Min, the chances of this team are only second to Japan. Despite their results not matching the greatness of Japan, they are still a powerful team with a great military-like discipline that has a lot to say in Qatar. They have demonstrated their strength against Iran and can surprise any of the teams. The recent appointment of the German Jurgen Klinsmann and and former hero Ch Du-ri as an assistant and perhaps an interpreter as Cha is fluent in German, shows that the Korean FA are determined to seriously challenge for the title that eluded them since 1956. A strong team with many stars playing in Europe the Koreans are confident that this might be their year.


Coach: Jurgen Klinsmann (from 2023)

Injured or Suspect Players: NONE


3/10/23FRIKorea Republic4 – 0Tunisia
17/10/23FRIKorea Republic6 – 0Vietnam
16/11/23AWCKorea Republic5 – 0Singapore
21/11/23AWCChina PR0 – 3Korea Republic
06/01/24FRIIraq0 – 1Korea Republic

Odds: 1 : 5.5


Iran, under Amir Ghalenoei, has proven to be one of the strongest in Asia and a difficult team to beat. Despite a few problems and shortfalls the team has enough talent to seriously challenge the likes of Japan and South Korea. In Azmoun and Taremi, Iran has a prolific duo up front not matched by any other Asian team. A near-half-century wait to lift the Asian Cup will give the Persians the greatest motive in making this tournament one to remember for the Iranian Fans.


Coach: Amir Ghalenoei (from 2022)

Injured or Suspect Players: Ramin Rezaeian (under treatment)


17/10/23FRIQatar0 – 4IR Iran
16/11/23AWCIR Iran4 – 0Hong Kong, China
21/11/23AWCUzbekistan2 – 2IR Iran
05/01/24FRIIR Iran2 – 1Burkina Faso
09/01/24FRIIndonesia0 – 5IR Iran

Odds: 1:8


Australia, a powerhouse in Asian football a team that has already lifted the title once at home in 2015. The Socceroos is still a force to be reckoned with in this year’s edition. The Socceroos are a mix of experienced and young players with 19 of the 26 currently plying trade in European leagues while only four are playing in the domestic A-League. The remaining three play in Japan and Saudi Arabia.


Coach: Graham Arnold (from 2018)

Injured or Suspect Players: None


13/10/23FRIEngland1 – 0Australia
17/10/23FRIAustralia2 – 0New Zealand
16/11/23AWCAustralia7 – 0Bangladesh
21/11/23AWCPalestine0 – 1Australia
06/01/24FRIBahrain0 – 2Australia

Odds: 1:6.5


Saudi Arabia: Conquerors of Argentina in the group stage at the Qatar 2022 World Cup, Saudi Arabia are is on nearly equal terms in challenging for the trophy with Iran and Australia.

The Saudi Pro League underwent a huge transformation in 2023 with the arrival of Cristiano Ronaldo, Sadio Mane, and Neymar headlining an importation of talent that lifted the competition to a new level. That uplift will, in turn, have had a trickle-down effect on the Saudi players already plying their trade in the league. The recruitment of the most expensive coach in the tournament shows how the Saudi Government is determined to win this Asian Cup. Surprisingly, the last two friendly matches against Hong Kong and Palestine, both Team Mellio opponents at the group stages, were less than convincing.


Coach: Roberto Mancini (from 2023)

Injured or Suspect Players: None


16/11/23AWCSaudi Arabia4 – 0Pakistan
21/11/23AWCJordan0 – 2Saudi Arabia
04/01/24FRISaudi Arabia1 – 0Lebanon
09/01/24FRISaudi Arabia0 – 0Palestine
10/01/24FRISaudi Arabia2 – 0Hong Kong

Odds: 1:8


Uzbekistan intends to gate-crash the party. The Central Asian teams have seen a big stride in football from youth to senior level. In this third stint at the helm of an Asian nation, Katanec will be — at the very least — looking to achieve with Uzbekistan what he managed with Iraq at the 2019 Asian Cup, when he led his former side to the round of 16 before they were beaten by eventual champions Qatar. The team has many young players augmenting the experiences of the likes of Eldor Shomurodov a player who has been the best in Uzbekistan football in the last few years.

Qatar: The Defending Champions and Host is considered an outsider. The Team has suffered under the Carlos Queiroz regime. The Qatari selectors failed in their due diligence in picking Queiroz who is a devotee of defensive football while the Qatari Team has always thrived in their attacking mentality. That marriage did not last long and now Qatar under a new head coach Tintin Márquez has a mountain to climb. An experienced Spaniard drafted in from Qatar Stars League side Al Wakrah, Márquez was appointed less than a month out from the Asian Cup after the Qatar FA sacked former Real Madrid boss Carlos Queiroz.

Azmoun was dismissed before joining the Team Melli squad

Lazio and AS Roma football teams met in the quarter-finals of the Coppa Italia on Wednesday evening. The match ended with Lazio winning 1-0. Zaccagni (51′ penalty) scored the only goal of this match for Lazio. Sardar Azmoun, Team Melli striker, was replaced Rick Karsdorp’s in Roma’s lineup in the 58th minute to vitalize the front line and prevent the team from losing, but he was unable to get anywhere until he was finally expelled from the field in the 90th minute due to a fight with an opponent player!

Meanwhile, the player has arrived in Doha to join the squad on Thursday. It wasn’t the best of circumstances for the naughty boy of Iran, known for his explosive reaction during bad times.

Iran beats Burkina Faso in Kish Island.

Team Melli defeated the West-African team Burkina Faso 2-1 in a closely contested match on Friday evening in Kish Island in a full capacity Olympic Stadium.

The guest opened the scoring in the 16th minute when Saman Ghoddos was robbed in front of the Iran goal for Konate to beat the outstretched Beiranvand with a low powerful strike. Mehdi Taremi equalized in the 42nd minute after a scramble in front of Burkina Faso’s goal. Omid Ebrahimi scored Iran’s winner in the 71st minute as a result of another scramble inside the box.

It was a tale of two teams as Ghalenoei changed the entire 11 players that have started the match with a new team plus a couple more substitutions in the second half. Despite a slow start by Iranian players, the guest showed aggression and pace that managed to disturb the rhythm of Team Melli passing game. Like usual, the middle of the park was ineffective with Saeid Ezatolahi once again raising question marks about his standard and suitability to operate as a holding midfielder In Team Melli. Errors in passing and lacking accuracy has marred his performance in this half. While Ghoddos was less not as effective as usual in the role of playmaker. The two other midfielders cum-wingers Mohebbi and Jahanbakhash failed to make an impact on the match.

Despite those deficiencies, Team Melli managed to threaten their gusts several times, but a wasteful Taremi and Moghanlou squandered a few chances that could have made the second half more comfortable than it was.

The second half saw the entire team changed for the first time in the history of Team Melli matches. The introduction of Rouzbeh Cheshmi as a defensive midfielder replacing the lame Ezatolahi, in addition to Ali Gholizadeh and Omid Ebrahimi, refreshed the midfield while Khalilzadeh in defense and Haj Safi on the left back solidified the defense. However, neither Ansarifard nor Asadi replacing Moghanlou and Taremi in the second half made any significant impact up front.

At the final whistle of the Iraqi referee, Amir Ghaleneoi must have been quite relieved by the narrow win but less than comfortable to see how his team can be contained and easily outpaced by a pressing and aggressive team.

It seems that Alireza Beiranvand sustained an injury in the first half and his substitution was necessary. On the bench Beiranvand was treated with heavy ice pack on his knees. Rezaeian was not involved as he is still being treated and the coaching staff did not risk him for this match.

Iran will play Indonesia next in Doha in the final preparation game before starting its campaign in AFC Asian Cup vs Palestine.

Team Melli announces the preparation plan.

  • A training camp is arranged in Kish Island
  • A friendly match against Burklina Faso is arranged in Kish.

According to the plans made public by the Football Federation, Team Melli team will hold its camp in Kish on January 4th. During the camp, the Iran team will play its last match before traveling to Qatar to take part in the AFC Asian Cup. The match will be held on Friday, January 5th at the Kish Olympics stadium against Burkina Faso national team.
This team is currently training in Dubai. The game at Kish Island will be held at 18:00 Iran time. After this match, the squad will continue training in Kish until January 8th when they will fly to Doha well ahead of the first match against Palestine.

Team Melli will be gathering in Kish without the legionnaire players unless some of these clubs release the players early.

Burkina Faso national football team

This African Team has never played against Team Melli. The FIFA Ranking of Burkina Faso national football team ranks 57th in the world according to the latest FIFA rankings, higher than teams like Qatar, Finland, and Ireland. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia is 56th in this ranking and Iran is 21st.

Almost all the players of the national team play abroad with European and African clubs to a lesser extent. Perhaps the most famous player is the 28-year-old Bertrand Traoré who plays for the English Premier League side, Aston Villa. Two other players are also playing in the EPL, Dango Ouattara at Bournemouth and Issa Kaboré at Luton Town.

Burkina Faso has never qualified for the FIFA World but the country’s football took a significant stride in the new millennium with the team reaching the African Nations Cup several times and ending the tournament in Senegal in 2021 in the fourth rank. Their best-ever position was the runner-up in 2013 in South Africa.

Last 5 results

12/09/23FRIMorocco1 – 0Burkina FasoL
13/10/23FRIEquatorial Guinea0 – 0Burkina FasoD
17/10/23FRIMauritania1 – 2Burkina FasoW
17/11/23CWCBurkina Faso1 – 1Guinea-BissauD
21/11/23CWCEthiopia0 – 3Burkina FasoW

Awaiting Team Melli’s squad list.

With just a few days to the new year and a fortnight to go for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 Qatar, Team Melli is experiencing an eerie silence. The players are carrying out their club duties with mixed fortune in Iran and abroad, while the coaching staff is busy analyzing the performance of the same players over and over again, in a vain attempt to find something encouraging.

Although Ghalenoei claimed that Team Melli is open to all suitable Iranian players, the truth remains that he is not looking anywhere beyond the 30-odd players that he inherited from Carlos Queiroz despite being short of a year now in charge of Team Melli.

A certain unreliable, Mohammad Nabi has claimed that Team Melli will have a couple or more preparatory friendly matches before the team departs to Doha, including a friendly with Japan and Indonesia, but apart from his claim we could not see anything to substantiate that.

There has been no statement or progress report from the Team Melli camp about the immediate plan with two weeks left. The domestic league is being played as normal and the competition is heating up, which is a good omen for Team Melli members playing in Iran.

In Europe,  the progress of the Iranians is mixed. Taremi is back on the scoring trail, Azmun is still a bench player coming in the latter stages of matches with AS Roma and managing to score a solitary goal so far, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s days with Feyenoord is coming to an end as the club is not willing to renew his contract and is still a benchwarmer in the Eredivisie. Saman Ghoddos has found himself in a new role at Brentford and he is not doing a bad job either. He is proving to be a versatile footballer now that he has played in all three outfield posts in competitions.

Ali Gholizadeh is not doing too great in the Polish league with Lech Poznan playing a total of 4 matches since the start of the league and now he has been relegated to the second ties team of the Polish league. Saeid Ezatolahi is in Denmark, and his form has been fluctuating and that is evident in his club Vejle BK sitting at the bottom of the league and facing relegation.

The two players in Turkey, Ali Karimi, and Majid Hosseini are in a much better situation as both seem to be regular starters and their team is ranked 4th in the Turkish Super League.

One significant player who will probably miss selection for the Team Melli squad for the Asian Cup is Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, a player who was beaming with confidence and was a star in the Ukraine league, but his transfer to England with Hull has been going from bad to worse. Similar to Sayyadmanesh, it seems that Mehdi Ghaeydi another young Iranian player with so much promise, is not going to make it either despite showing a reasonable standard in the UAE league.

The squad name should be published soon, but no one should be under any illusion that new names will added to the 30-year-old players that have played together and dominated Team Melli since FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia.

Why is the insistence on an aging Team Melli ?

When Iran won the Asian Cup 1n 1968, it had a young inexperienced team but with youthful energy and a great fighting spirit in addition to skills required to win the top title in Asia. It was indeed a milestone and a great achievement for such a young team. If you look at the team in 1968, there was only one player who was over 30 years of age, and that was the goalkeeper, Aziz Asli. The average age of the team was 24 years that included stars like Parviz Ghleechkhani (21), Ali Jabbari (20), Gholamhossein Farzami (22) , Homayoun Behzadi (21). The irony is that the two most senior outfield players, Hasan Habibi (29) and Mostafa Arab (26) were not even 30 !

Not only the won their first Asian Cup with an average age of 24, but their international experience was also quite modest too with an average appearance (caps) of 14 matches only.

Today, Team Melli consists of majority of players who are over 30 years, and a coach who does not consider the national team as a place for young Iranian talents. A coach who prefers older, experienced and trusted players to do the job, that they have failed on many occasions several time over.

In fact, Ghalenoei’s team is not radically different from the team that lost 3-0 to Japan in the semi-final of the AFC Asian Cup 2019 under Queiroz. Four years have passed in which Iranian football has failed to produce quality player to replace the older ones. Or is that a fact? No one is talking about a radical overhaul of the team, but a gradual calculated introduction of young players into the senior ranks like other national teams should be the strategy.

There are several problems preventing the implementation of career progression for the massive amount of talented young footballers in Iran.

Since the revolution, Iran has suffered an acute shortage of skilled managers and a major decline in management skills and standards. In addition, complete mentality changes in style and objectives, whereby football and the rest of sports in Iran, are there to serve the purposes and principals of the regimes rather that sporting principles and pride of the nation.

 Managers, coaches, clubs and federation administrators are carefully vetted before taking up their job in this totally government-controlled environment of Iranian sports. Rest assured that Amir Ghalenoei has been filtered and approved by the hierarchy. But how is this related to the youth in Team Melli ?

After the civil unrest following Mahsa Amini’s death while in the custody of the notorious virtue patrols, an arm of Iranian government security apparatus, the main drivers of this civil uprising were the youth. They led the rebellion, openly expressed their anger and defied the archaic authoritarian system which resulted in some of them being executed and thousands other incarcerated. The youth of Iran have this natural rebellion feeling and want to revolt against what they see as injustice, lack of personal freedom and are tired of being imposed upon in every walk of life.  Whenever they can, they display signs of dissent whether in their attire, looks, tattoos or social media expression.

The regime is wary of the youth and their potential for troublemaking. Naturally, Team Melli selectors and especially a pious and conformist coach such as Ghalenoei, will follow the party line by being less inclined to pick younger players. It is certainly not for the lack of quality of younger players.

Team Melli 2022 Team Melli 1968