Tag: Azadi Stadium

Evolving Perspectives: Amir Ghalanoei’s Squad Selection and Team Melli’s Future

Amir Ghalanoei, under significant public and media scrutiny, has made a pivotal decision by introducing eight new players to the squad facing Turkmenistan in Azadi, a crucial step in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers. The inclusion of these fresh faces reflects a notable shift in response to public demands for younger talents in Team Melli, along with a strategic move to diversify player selections from various league clubs, breaking the monopoly of the dominant three clubs, ESteghlal, Persepolis, and Sepahan.

Acknowledging the coach’s results-driven approach, it’s evident that Ghalenoei prioritizes experience to secure victories, a sentiment shared by many Iranian coaches. However, this strategy raises concerns about nurturing young talents within Team Melli, a responsibility Ghalenoei emphasizes falls on the shoulders of clubs due to their limited resources and focus on immediate results. Such a situation is tricky, creating a challenging cycle for the national team.

Despite the infusion of new talent, expectations for significant changes in the starting lineup remain low, reflecting Ghaleneoi’s conservative coaching style and reluctance to embrace change or take risks. This conservatism is evident in the retention of senior players like the 36-year-old central defender Shoja’a Khalilzadeh and the persistent presence of underperforming players in key posts like Saeed Ezatollahi highlighting a reluctance to explore alternative options.

In midfield, the absence of versatile midfielder Rouzbeh Chesmi raises eyebrows, given his abilities and impactful contributions to Esteghlal. Chesmi’s wonder goal in the league a few weeks back, would have surely guaranteed him a place in the 29 players list, but it was not to be. Meanwhile, players like Ghoddos and Jahanbaksh, despite club-level challenges, maintain their spots in the starting lineup, showcasing Ghalenoei’s trust in their abilities and potential impact.

Looking ahead to the offensive line, Azmoun and Taremi are expected to lead the charge, despite challenges faced by Azmoun in securing regular playing time. Taremi is experiencing his worst season in |Portugal, but his starting lineup is virtually assured. This reliance on established players underscores the persistent reliance on familiar faces within Team Melli.

While the additions to the roster are promising, doubts linger about Ghalenoei’s commitment to rejuvenating Team Melli, with skeptics suggesting that these changes might be superficial rather than substantive. However, the upcoming match against Turkmenistan presents an opportunity for Team Melli to demonstrate their quality on the field and secure a convincing victory, potentially silencing critics and satisfying fans’ expectations.

In conclusion, Ghalenoei’s squad selection reflects a delicate balance between experience and rejuvenation, highlighting ongoing challenges in nurturing young talents and embracing change within Team Melli. The upcoming match serves as a litmus test for both the coach’s strategic decisions and the team’s performance, offering insights into Team Melli’s trajectory in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers.

Iran v Turkmenistan: Head2Head

Team Melli is gearing up to face Turkmenistan on Thursday, coinciding with Nowrooz, in the second round of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers. The objective is clear: to fortify their position atop Group E and secure an early ticket to the third round of qualifiers.

On paper, Iran’s football prowess dwarfs that of Turkmenistan’s. The FIFA rankings and various metrics underline Iran’s superiority over its northeastern counterpart. However, when it comes to on-field clashes, Turkmenistan proves to be a formidable opponent for Team Melli.

Out of the eight encounters between the two teams, Iran has managed to clinch victory only thrice while suffering defeat twice. Notably, these matches have seldom seen significant score gaps, indicating the competitive edge that Turkmenistan brings to the field.

Turkmenistan’s enigmatic status as one of the world’s most secretive nations, governed by an autocratic leader fond of ostentatious displays, adds an aura of intimidation. This could partially explain Iran’s relatively modest performances on Turkmen soil, although such factors hold no sway in matches played on neutral or Iranian turf.

Despite Turkmenistan’s underwhelming performance, and failing to qualify for the AFC Asian Cup 2023 in Qatar, they remain a puzzle for Team Melli. Their inability to dominate a lower-ranked opponent raises questions, especially considering Iran’s football pedigree.


4Hong Kong, China201126-41

As the upcoming match unfolds at the Azadi Stadium, Team Melli stands as the undeniable favorite, despite the disappointment of their defeat in the AFC Asian Cup semi-finals against Qatar. With the home advantage and a thirst for redemption, Iran is poised for victory with a comfortable margin. Among those eager to make their mark is Sardar Azmoun, an Iranian Turkmen renowned for his knack of finding the net against Turkmenistan.

In conclusion, while Turkmenistan presents a challenge, Team Melli’s determination and talent are primed to secure a convincing win, propelling them closer to their World Cup aspirations.


TEAMFIFA RankingAFC RankingHighest RankLowest Rank

Match Data

H / A / NMatchesWDLGoals+ / –
Home43017 – 4+3
Away30212 – 3-1
Nneutral10101 – 1+0
Total833210 – 8+2

List of Matches

DateCompetetionH / A / NscoreStadiumResult Attendance
12.Nov.2015CompetitionH3 – 1Azadi Stadium, TehranW35,800
16.Jun.2015World Cup Qualifier / Round 2 – GROUP DA1 – 1Garaşsyzlyk Stadium , DashoguzD10,000
25.Nov.1996Friendly H0 – 1Azadi Stadium, TehranL15,000
28.Apr.1996Friendly A0 – 1Ashgabat Stadium, AshgabatL30,000
26.Apr1996Friendly A1 – 1Ashgabat Stadium, AshgabatD10,000
05. Oct.1994Asian Games N1 – 1Bingo Athletic Stadium, OnomichiD7,000
14.Jun.1993ACO CupH2 – 1Azadi Stadium, TehranW1,5000
25. Nov.1996ACO CupH2 – 1Azadi Stadium, TehranW15,000

Winning start for Team Melli in World Cup qualifiers.

Team Melli defeated Hong Kong 4-0 in Azadi on Thursday evening in the first match of FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifiers. Sardar Amoun scored two goals while Mehdi Taremi and Ramin Rezaeian scored the other two.

Despite the good margin of victory against a lowly Hong Kong ranked 150th in the world, Team Melli was far from convincing and at times even embarrassing. The two late goals in the second half added some respectability to the result but that should not hide the fact that Ghalenoei has a lot of work to do to build a respectable team for the World Cup in 3 years’ time. Although Iran is one of the favorite for the AFC Asian Cup, such performance with an aging team puts a lot of question marks on this claim.

Iran started positively and through a good assist by Mohebbi courtesy of Capt. Hajsafi’s perseverance, Azmoun cooly slotted the ball into the net in the 12th minute. Two minutes later, Azmoun struck again from a similar situation from a Mehdi Taremi pass into the box. After that, thinking that the Hong Kong floodgate has opened the players started show acting to entertain the small crowd in Azadi. This showtime act, was at times quite embarrassing to watch. Mohebbi and Taremi both went for the same ball on the 6-yard line, both going for overhead kick, resulting in Taremi’s boot whacking Mohebbi;s head with the ball nowhere to be seen.

Wrong passes, uncoordinated moves, lethargy and taking it easy marred the rest of the half for Iran. Hong Kong on the other hand managed to close the path of Team Melli player with numbers and pressing tactics.

In the second half , it was Hong Kong who were determined to score and nearly managed that. Iran’s defense held tight and managed to survive until two late goals sealed the match for the home team.

This is the 9th victory for Amir Ghalenoei, a record that would be the envy of any coach in the world. It is also Ghalenoei’s first win in an official match, however, this team and Ghalenoi himself is far from convincing. His stubbornness in using older players like Omid Ebrahimi (37 years) and Karim Ansarifard (34 years) , is a serious setback for Iran’s football and Team Melli and such pig-headed attitude will come back and haunt him.

Despite what he said yesterday in his pre-match press conference about learning from mistakes, it is doubtful that he seriously means it. This current team may beat the likes of Angola, Hong Kong, Jordan all teams ranked below Team Melli, but the real test will come soon, in fact in 5 days from now when Iran faces the much-improved Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

Man of the Match: Sardar Azmoun.

World Cup qualifiers starts for Team Melli.

Preview – Group E: Turkmenistan v Uzbekistan; IR Iran v Hong Kong, China

Tehran: Iran are the clear favourites to advance from Group E of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.
Iran, seeking to qualify for a fourth consecutive FIFA World Cup, face Hong Kong, China on Thursday with Turkmenistan hosting Uzbekistan.
Iran’s array of stars means Hong Kong will face a stern test of their credentials at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Having suffered heartbreak at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Iran will be determined to qualify for the 2026 edition after having failed to advance from the group stage in all their previous six appearances at the global showpiece.

Hong Kong, however, will not be lacking in confidence after having sealed a return to the AFC Asian Cup for the first time since 1968 and having advanced to the semi-finals of the Asian Games for the first time in the recent Hangzhou edition.

Turkmenistan, the only team in the group not heading to the AFC Asian Cup Qatar 2023, will be fired up to erase that disappointment by enjoying a good run in the Preliminary Joint Qualification.

Uzbekistan will be familiar foes, with their Central Asian rivals on a mission to advance to the third round after missing out in 2022.

Thursday’s fixtures
Turkmenistan v Uzbekistan
Venue: Ashgabat Stadium (Ashgabat)
Kick-off: 19:00 (UTC+4)

IR Iran v Hong Kong, China
Venue: Azadi Stadium (Tehran)
Kick-off: 18:00 (UTC+3:30)

The dilapidated Azadi stadium is in danger!

The unsafe conditions of the facilities and the tribunes of Azadi Stadium has been a topic that has been discussed umpteen times by the Iranian sports press, now it is the turn of the guest and this time the Russians to see from close the dangers facing anyone going to the stadium.

While the national Russian football team played a friendly in Iran, it was an opportunity for the  Russian media to get a close look at the sporting facilities and in particular the grand old Azadi Stadium to report on the state of this stadium. Azadi Stadium, which is in its worst condition with the local media repeatedly warning about the dangers and its insecurity, has now become the subject of Russian media. In a report, the ‘championat’ news site discussed the conditions of Azadi Stadium for the match between Iran and Russia and wrote about the bad conditions of this stadium: “When you enter Tehran’s Azadi Stadium, you have a strange feeling. A beautiful trophy greets you upon entering the stadium, although it looks very out of place here; Especially considering the dilapidated state of the stadium. It has been raining in Iran for the past few days. You enter a room under the stands and water is dripping from the ceiling. To be honest, water flows everywhere in this stadium. It seems like the arena is about to be destroyed.”

The “destruction” of Azadi Stadium is a prediction that the local media have been talking about for a long time. Now the voices of the Russians have come out and they have emphasized that water leakage from everywhere from ceilings in the rooms below the uncovered stands. Amazingly these observations by the Russian guests occurred despite the fact that there was no rain on the day of the match between Iran and Russia, and these waters have accumulated from the last two previous days.

Azadi Stadium has been neglected for many years. Signs of dilapidation and decay are everywhere from the cement stands that fans use as weapons to throw on the field to the washrooms, to the offices and properties that are below or at the ground level of the stadium.  The worrying question is whether the officials in charge of this great facility will act in time before a disaster occurs and people lose their lives. History tells us that public safety is not the top priority in Iram=n.

Azadi Stadium is 52 years old and opened as the Aryamehr Stadium.  The stadium was ordered to be built by the late Shah of Iran with eyes on the Asian Games of 1974.  It was inaugurated on 17 October 1971 by Mohammad Reza Pahlavi,

Azmoun withdraws from Team Melli camp.

Team Melli’s training camp the preparatory games against Russia (March 23) and Kenya (March 28) that started today was joined by several legionnaires but with a notable absentee.

Domestic league players, who have been invited to the national team camp, have introduced themselves to the technical staff this morning at the Olympic Hotel. Ahmed Noorolahi, Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan, and Shoja Khalilzadeh, the three legionnaires playing in the UAE and Qatar have also been added to the national team camp. It is reported from the camp that Bayer Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun has requested the national team’s coaching staff to be excused from joining this camp. Apparently, Azmoun will not accompany the team in the upcoming games with Russia and Kenya due to family reasons and with the permission of the head coach.. Azmoun’s presence in the team camp was especially important for Russian media and experts because of his time with Rubin Kazan, Rostov, and Zenit for many years, and was considered one of the best foreign stars of the Russian league.

Hossein Hosseini, Hossein Pourhamidi, Alain Dinka (GK coach) , Alireza Bairanvand and Payam Niazman.

Today, the Football Federation also introduced the assistants of Amir Ghalenoei. According to this, Saeed Elhawi, Rahman Rezaei, Ali Asghar Ghorban Alipour, Alian Dinka (Goalkeeper Coach of Tractor ) and Ali Kamangari (Analyzer) are members of the national team’s technical staff. Due to the limited time between the end of the league games and the start of the camp, the first foreign assistant to the head coach of the national team will be introduced after this camp, and another Iranian coach will be added to the current staff.

Kenya, to meet Team Melli in Azadi.

According to a news report, the Kenyan Football Federation officially announced that the national team of Kenya will face Iran on March 28th  in an international friendly match at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium.

Before this, Iran’s national team has a match arranged against Russia on March 23rd at Azadi Stadium. Amir Ghalenoei will lead Team Melli for the first time since his recent appointment as Head Coach.

Kenya’s national team, Harambee Stars, will flex muscles with Iran in an international friendly on March 28, Football Kenya Federation chief executive officer, Barry Otieno has confirmed. Stars will travel to Tehran for the match as they make their comeback to the international stage after being banned by the world football governing body, Fifa, in February of last year.

Otieno has urged Kenyans to rejoice over the national team’s return after a year away, adding that the friendly will be the ideal chance for them to freshen up after getting rusty from inactivity. “On March 28, the Harambee Stars return to the pitch for the first time in over a year. This is a big moment for Kenya. I expect a great match and urge all Kenyans to rally behind the team so that we can move forward together,” Otieno remarked.

The FKF boss said they would deploy every resource at their disposal to help Kenya qualify for the next Africa Cup of Nations.

National team head coach Engin Firat welcomed the fixture, saying Iran will provide a good test for Kenya. “Iran is a World Cup nation and is ranked 24th in the world. Playing them in our first match back after suspension will help us assess where we are which is the first step in rebuilding the team and working our way to a high level of competitiveness,” Firat said.

“It is important to keep the team engaged and to keep working so that we can play at a good level when we return.” The Turkish gaffer revealed he will name the provisional squad on Thursday morning, before the start of a residential training camp on March 19.

Engin Firat, has previous coaching experience in Iran’s Saipa and Sepahan clubs. Firat was also the assistant of Ali Daei on the Iranian national team at one point in time.

Iran and Kenya have met twice with both matches played in Iran with Iran also winning them both.





FIFA Ranking:

Iran – 24th  [1551 pts]
Kenya -101 [1202 pts]

Date Comp. H / A / N Final score Stadium Attendance
14.03.2009 Friendly H 1 – 0 Azadi Stadium, Tehran 6500
21.04.1997 Friendly / Friendly H 3 – 0 Tabriz 42000

Iraq announxces a friendly game agaibst coach-less Iran!

The Iraqi Football Federation board convened for a meeting yesterday, and one of the topics raised in this meeting was the holding of a warm-up game with the Iranian national team.

According to the announcement of the Iraqi Federation, the country’s national football team plans to hold two warm-up matches against Iran and Thailand in Baghdad in April. Iraqi media have reported that the country’s federation insists that the match against Iran be played in Baghdad, but Iran’s request is to play at Azadi Stadium. Meanwhile, Iran’s national football team has not announced its head coach after being eliminated from the World Cup and the departure of Carlos Queiroz, and it is not clear when and who approved the match against Iraq as FFIRI as usual keeps everything a secret due to it historic poor public relations department. Iraq recently hosted the Persian Gulf Cup recently and won the championship in a dramatic match against Branko Ivankovic’s Oman.

Iranian female fans allowed entry into Azadi Stadium

About 500 Esteghlali female fans were allowed entry into Azadi Stadium in the third week of the Persian Gulf Premier League game.

Esteghlal played Mes Kerman on Thursday in the first match of the third week of the premier football league. This match is the first appearance of women in League games as excited female spectators arraives at the gates of Azadi Stadium as early as three hours before the game’s kick-off. 500 tickets were allocated for the women’s section and were sold on the spot, but over 50 female fans were unable to get tickets. This group gathered around the entrance gate number 21 on the east side of Azadi Stadium in the hope of gaining entry.

It is reported that 30 of the female fans who did not hold tickets, finally managed to sneak in with the help of the gatekeepers and staff. While some lucky ladies were able to enter Azadi Stadium by different means, nearly 20 of them failed despite their efforts. Meanwhile, some crooks took advantage of the women’s desperation to attend the match in Azadi Stadium and sold men’s section tickets, while these tickets were of no use to the women.

Before the start of the game, the female fans strongly cheered Esteghlal players. Also, Esteghlal Head Coach Sapinto and Esteghlal’s bench walked towards the females’ section before the kickoff, where they were greeted by the cheering female fans. During the game, the men cheered on both sides of the stadium with the help of the women. In addition to cheering for the late Esteghlal coach Mansoor Pourheidari in the 22nd minute,

It was a momentous occasion for the female fans of Esteghlal who finally managed to break the ban, albeit thanks to the threat by FIFA to suspend Iran football for breaking its regulation by not allowing women into stadiums.

Although allocating 500 seats for females in a 100,000-capacity stadium seems to be lacking, it is a good start for the passionate Iranian female fans who were colorful and cheering, energizing the stadium despite their small numbers.

Another twist in the tale of women entry into stadiums.

The Minister of Sports, Hamid Sajjadi once again highlighted the reluctance of the regime in allowing women entry into the stadium. The tactics of procrastinating the issue have been Modus Operandi of the authorities whose clerical hierarchy strongly oppose the presence of women in stadium calling it a sin and a corrupt act. Faced with pressure from FIFA, Iran has exceptionally allowed the presence of women in Azadi on one occasion. However, the authorities have been coming up with all sorts of excuses to procrastinate the issue for as long as they could.

In response to FIFA’s letter about allowing women entry into football stadiums during league competitions, the Minister of Youth and Sports Sajjadi said: “FIFA has proposed the presence of women in league competitions in its letter. I emphasize that FIFA’s letter was only a recommendation. We are following up to identify stadiums that have proper infrastructure and meet the conditions of the supreme religious Council, security, and law enforcement guidelines. Meetings have already started in this regard and it had nothing to do with FIFA’s letter. When we started this work, they said that a couple of years ago, arrangements were made for allowing women into the stadiums at both national team and club competitions. We also follow the same arrangements and if a commitment was made and something was signed, it was from Iran. After all, this is the name of Iran and it doesn’t matter if I am a minister or someone else. They have talked about this. Because of the FIFA guidelines, then it has to be followed one by one. For example, FIFA says that certain standards must be applied in the stadiums for the spectators’ safety, the parking and dressing rooms should be like this, and the standards of the stadiums should be like that”.