Tag: Dragan Skočić

Dragan Skočić, appointed as Croatia’s U21 head coach.

The former Team Melli coach Dragan Skočić has been appointed to Croatia Under 21 Football Team.

According to  Croatian Football Federation officially announced on Friday afternoon that Dragan Skocic’s contract with the under-21 football team has been signed.  The  statement said :

“Skocic’s last work was leading the Iranian national team, which successfully led the team to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, and by scoring 25 points in 10 games in the third qualifying round of the World Cup, a new record for the national team. Iran registered. Skocic didn’t have the chance to lead Iran to the finals despite the great results. Before coaching Iran’s national football team, Skocic coached Rijeka, Interblock Ljubljana, Al Arabi, Nasr, Malavan, Foolad, Rayka Babol, and Sanat Naft, and his coaching successes include winning the Croatian FA Cup with the Rica team and winning the Slovenian FA Cup and Supercup pointed with Interblock. He reached the final of the Crown Prince Cup with Al-Arabi and led Al-Nasr and Foolad in the AFC Champions League. Skocic was nominated for the 2021 World Coach Award by the IFFHS. Skocic, who has to participate in the European Championship with the Croatian team in less than 70 days, said about accepting the leadership of the Croatian under-21 team: Skočić said: I take on this role with great pride, ambition, and optimism, and to Mr. Kostic, the president of the Croatian Federation. Thank you for your trust.”

He added: Igor (former coach of the Croatian youth team) did a very good job in this team. My wish is to finish the European Cup with the best possible performance and then start gathering and building the new generation. We have really talented and quality players. I look forward to the challenge of using my knowledge and experience to help them realize their potential”

teamelli.com wishes Dragan Skočić the best in leading his country’s youth team.

How is Team Melli under Ghalenoei?

With one win and a draw already under his belt, Ardashir (Amir) Ghalenoei seems to have started well in his second term with Team Melli.  The nucleus of the previous team is still intact as Ghalenoei used most of the players who qualified Iran for the world cup under Dragan Skocic and then briefly in the World Cup finals, under Carlos Queiroz. However, the addition of several new players and the return of previous ones has given a slightly different shape to the same team.

Overall, Team Melli played delightful football in both matches, despite some shortfalls that need to be worked upon by the coaching team. The passing of the ball, finding spaces, defensive coverage, crosses from flanks, and counterattacks were all carried out to acceptable to good standards. The shortfalls were in the poor finishing, final ball delivery, mental agility, and the chronic shortfall of Iranian players, general slowness. While modern football demands quick and swift thinking by footballers, Iranian players seem to take extra seconds to make such moves.


The match against Kenya was particularly worrying in the sense that the Iranian players could not physically match the Kenyan team! The African players won most of the one-to-one tackles which mostly ended up with the Iranian hitting the lawn with both arms raised up in protests to no avail. Physical strength and body build have always been one of the better attributes of Iranian footballers throughout the years. It is important to keep that up, especially against stronger teams. It is also important by Ghalenoei to instill some discipline and discourage play-acting.

Although not much can be read from the two matches, and not much can be presumed from Ghaleoei’s public statements, it seems that a fresh mentality is going to dominate Team Melli’s playing style. Under eight years and something, Team Melli fans were exposed to the dour defensive-minded style of Carlos Queiroz. Ghaleoei has a different mindset and we do hope it is aimed toward more attractive football that appeals to the fan but of course, not to the detriment of results. Offensive footballs require such tools as gameplans with several options and competent skillful players to finish the moves. On the face of it, Team Melli has players up front that play in the highest standard leagues such as Azmoun, Taremi, and Sayyadmanish with the newer generation players such as  Amir Hossein HOSSEINZADEH and Arya BARZAGAR waiting for their chances.

These players have proved time and again their worth.  It is up to the Ghalenoei to utilize the skills of such talents. There is a small problem with finishing for Taremi, perhaps he is experiencing a down in his performance, but he and his teammates cannot be so wasteful and profligate as they have shown in these two matches.

There are no shortages of talent on the defensive line and the goalkeepers, so that is the least of the worries.

The biggest challenge for Ghalenoei remains the midfield. It is the line where the forwards must receive quality and timely service in order to finish the job. The present complexion of the midfield is not so hopeful. Unfortunately, Jahanbakhsh who mainly operates mainly as a winger has been facing form degradation recently with erratic performances. Ezzarollahi seems to have stagnated and his value remains on the defensive side, Ali Gholizadeh is one of the better players that Ghalneoi may focus on for the offensive side, Nourollahi is another player whose value varies between one match and another. Saman Ghoddos came with such promise, but he is yet to deliver consistently. Team Melli has no midfielder that can take the game by the scruff of the neck. There is no such player in the current generation of footballers, unfortunately.

So, the lack of creative, quality, and consistently good midfield players will remain Amir Ghalenoei’s biggest challenge.

One bright side of the two matches was the introduction of Sepahan’s midfielder Mohammas Karimi. Hardly a household name in Iran, the former U20 Team Melli player, performed very well in the first half and was one of the few good players while he was on the field. There seems to be a player that can serve Team Melli well if given the chance. In the contrast, his club teammate Moghanlou was utterly wasteful, out of place, and at times, lost in the lineup of Team Melli in both matches. No doubt he played and scored well with his club, but in the two matches at an international level, he remains way out of place.

Team Melli fans prefer a foreign coach.

The Iranian news agency ISNA conducted two polls online which showed that the majority of Team Melli fans prefer a foreign coach to lead Team Melli after the departure of  Carlos Queiroz.

Under the guidance of the Portuguese head coach, Iran finished third in the group at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 with one win, two losses, and 3 points and failed to qualify for the knockout stage. The credit for qualification to the 2022 World Cup finals is given to Croat Dragan Skocic who was dismissed shortly after the arrival of Mehdi Taj.

Now the national team is without a head coach, and in less than a year, the AFC Asian Cup 2023 will be played in Qatar. Meanwhile, the football federation is still debating the appointment of a coach while its head, Mehdi Taj has implied that the future Team Melli coach will be an Iranian from the domestic league.

Currently, there are some local football experts who consider the appointment of an Iranian coach to be the most suitable, while others disagree and believe that none of the Iranian coaches currently operating in Iran is capable of leading Team Melli. Based on this, the Iranian Students News Agency ISNA conducted two polls on its website and Telegram channel and asked its audience this question, “Which option do you agree with to lead the national football team, Iranian or foreign coach? “

The results of these two polls show that a majority of ISNA’s audience prefers that the helm of the Iranian national football team be entrusted to a foreign coach in the future. 59% of the participants in the Isna site poll voted for the foreign option and 41% agreed with the Iranian option.

Sajjadi accused by Majlis (Parliament) of mismanagement

Story by Mina Aldroubi, Nada AlTaher 

Iran’s Parliament gave a warning on Tuesday to Sports Minister Hamid Sajjadi, accusing him of mismanaging the ministry, the Fars news agency reported.

Mr Sajjadi spoke to parliamentarians in an open session on Tuesday to brief officials on the ministry’s financial problems and expenses, especially regarding the country’s football teams.

It came after the Iranian men’s national team (Team Melli) failed to progress past the group stages of December’s World Cup in Qatar.

“The MPs were not satisfied with Sports Minister Sajjadi’s answer about the mismanagement situation in professional sports, especially football, and he received a yellow card from the parliament,” said the agency.

Yellow cards are the Parliament’s way of holding cabinet members accountable by summoning them for questioning or interpellations, a report by Germany-based think tank Carpo said.

“Depending on the minister’s performance, interpellations can lead to ‘yellow cards’ or impeachments. Even the President can be challenged through this mechanism,” the report said.

At the World Cup in Qatar, Iranians were seen wearing the “Women, Life, Freedom” slogan made famous during months-long protests in the country, sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody on September 16.

Hamid Sajjadi practically runs Iran’s football federation. He was the force behind the sacking of Dragan Skočić and restoring Carlos Queiroz to Team Melli and hence accountable for the failure of the team in the World Cup 2022. The government of Iran is the largest contributor to the football federation coffer, some claim, the only contributor to the FFIRI budget. Other federation income is mostly from FIFA and AFC for Iran’s participating in international tournaments. The government of Iran always denies interfering in football and claims that FFIRI elections are free from outside interference, however, events in the last general election and the return of the disgraced Mehdi Taj refutes such claims.

In any case, even if Hamid Sajjadi is kicked out of the Ministry, the one that will replace him will continue on the same path and the same objective of using sports, particularly football, as a tool to serve the regime.

Rogério De Sa waits on Iran’s FA to see if he and Queiroz still have a job

Rogério De Sa’s future with the Iran national team is hanging in the balance and he says he will resume talks with the federation after the festive break.

The former Orlando Pirates and Bidvest Wits coach is back in South Africa from the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

De Sa was Iran coach Carlos Queiroz’s assistant and their collaboration did not yield the required results of getting the team to the knockout stages for the first time in the country’s history. Team Melli lost 6-2 against England, beat Wales 2-0 and lost 1-0 against the US to end third in Group B.

De Sa and Queiros have Mozambican parentage and have worked together for some time. Earlier this year, they took Egypt to the final of the Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon where the Pharaohs, led by Liverpool talisman Mo Salah, were defeated by Sadio Mane-led Senegal.

Twelve years ago, the duo coached a star-studded Portugal at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

“We are not sure about our future with the Iran national team but we will resume our talks with the federation in January. We hope to continue with the team next year,” De Sa said.

De Sa has already started working as an analyst on the pay-channel SuperSport’s World Cup panel. “After the World Cup, I will go on holiday for the rest of December,” he said.

Queiroz and De Sa only took over Iran in early September, replacing Croatian Dragan Skočić after Mehdi Taj was elected as Iranian FA president in October, returning to the position he held from 2016 to 2019. The South African assistant coach was quite confident of Iran reaching the knockout stages after a friendly 1-0 win against Uruguay

“But we are confident about reaching the knockout stages — that will be history, it will be for the first time Iran achieved that. In the last two World Cups, they came very close. We can only try again. But there is an amazing fighting spirit in the team. There are good attitudes in this team, no stars.”

De Sa said the limited time they had with the team, and a tough group always made for an uphill battle in Qatar. De Sa said the same thing about Egypt in the African Nations Cup.

“We were drawn into a very difficult group and our players were always going to find it very tough. We also did not have enough time because some of our players were arriving days before the games started.

“It was a different World Cup with so many different dynamics compared to other tournaments. Our team was made up of mostly local players, but it was an important learning experience for the boys playing against England’s superstars they see in the English Premier League, the stars of the US, and against players such as Gareth Bale [of Wales].

“We wanted to make history by qualifying for the knockout stage but we could not get over the line. It is very humid and the tempo of the matches is dropping [in the latter stages of the tournament]. There is air-conditioning at the stadiums but it is only switched on during matches. Some players are going to start struggling and that’s when you start seeing the big boys coming out on top.


Desperate FFIRI losing battle!

According to Mehr reporter, Dragan Skočić, the former head coach of Iran’s Team Melli, who was fired a few months before the World Cup, decided to confront FFIRI personnel following their slanders against him in the aftermath of Team Melli in the World Cup elimination. Those accusations were expressed by the vice president of the football federation, Mohhamadnabi on Friday.

For the first time since his departure, Skočić defended himself while harshly criticizing his successor, Mehdi Taj, and MohammadNabi,

In a hastily arranged, quirky, and clichéd response, the FFIRI while refuting Skocic’s statements (…), claimed that it will file a law suite against Skočić for defamation.

In the published statement of FFIRI, it was not clear which part of the Croat coach’s recent post, is false, libelous, or made to be harmful to FFIRI’s reputation, which a court of law can accept for such a case.

Skočić claimed that Nabi and his entourage were in contact with a certain group of Team Melli players before the elections of the Football Federation and lobbied them for support. It was the same group that had been in contact with Queiroz. This issue was brought up many times before by Mirshad Majdi, the acting head of the federation, as well as Hamid Estili, the head of the national team, and it was never denied, by Team Melli players, especially the supporters of Queiroz, who were mainly the senior players. The disgruntled players were subject to Skocic exclusion from the squad due to various reasons but mainly, an attempt by the Croat to introduce younger and more energetic players from the domestic league as replacements.

A smear campaign against Skočić started by spreading stories in several media outlets supporting the return of the former Team Melli coach, who has a track record of failure after failure not only with Iran but with Colombia and then Egypt. On the eve of the football federation elections, this shadowy group invited the members of the federation assembly to vote for Mehdi Taj to improve the conditions of the national team. Some unconfirmed stories of intimidation were published but quickly withdrawn after threats against the publishers. The group sought the support of Team Melli players.

In the end, it became clear that the senior players’ group was supporting the election of Taj, on the condition that Queiroz returns to Team Melli after the dismissal of Skocic, and of course, a guarantee that these old players are included in the squad participating in the World Cup.

Around the same time as these events, Carlos Queiroz, posted on his social media page a message that confirmed that he was fully aware of the situation in Iran, confirming contact(s) between Queiroz and his supporting players.  As such, such contacts as stated by Skocic is not a deniable or hidden issue that the Football Federation could use against Skocic to file a lawsuit!

In the post published by Skocic, he claimed that the Iranian national team was the oldest team present in the World Cup, which is easily proven based on statistics, and of course, the reason for the increase in the average age of the national team was the presence of older players who are, not accidentally, the proponents of Carlos Queiroz. To enhance his chances, Mehdi Taj and his aids, a group supported by the regime anyway, approached the Minister of Yout and Sports, Hamid Sajjadi, and claimed that the majority of Team Melli players and certainly the senior members are dissatisfied with Skocic while giving the minister several false and fabricated stories. Taj warned that time was critical, and his election will save Team Melli from humiliation in Qatar.

Sajjadi hardly bothered to research the issue meticulously or have his own audit or investigation, so he hastily approved the Taj’s plans and backed him fully to win the election. Since almost all the clubs are owned directly or indirectly by the government, it was not too difficult for the owners to demand their CEOs to vote for Taj.

It was quite predictable, that those players, such as Ehsan Hajsafi, Karim Ansarifard, Vahid Amiri, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and Mehdi Taremi got rewarded for the efforts by being assured of a pace in the final list of Team Melli heading to Doha. With that list, Iran officially becomes the oldest team in its history present in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

In another part, Skocic addressed the members of the Federation by mentioning that they can enjoy the rewards and vehicles tax-free imports that they were awarded as a result of his efforts to assure Team Melli qualification. The reward officially announced by FFIRI specifically for qualifying for the World Cup, and naturally, this progress was guided by and achieved during Skocic’s coaching period, Therefore, this part of Skočić’s statement seems completely accurate and logical, and apparently cannot be denied by the Football Federation.

The former head coach of Team Melli also pointed out in another sarcasm that with the significant income he brought to the football federation (9 million dollars FIFA reward for qualifying for the World Cup), the officials of the federation can pay off the heavy debts resulting from their past bad deals and poor management. A veiled reference to the amount due to Marc Wilmots who was recruited by Mehdi Taj. That is, of course, an undeniable fact.

In other parts of Skocic’s post, issues such as players’ selection, trust in loyalty (towards the regime), and the lack of courage and bravery in the strategy of the game, are opinions on team issues that have already been discussed by many experts and veterans. Many experts and Iranian analysts have raised concerns similar to what Skočić mentioned. As such, these are not items that one party can file a lawsuit against.

In the end, the Football Federation should clearly and explicitly describe what it means by such accusations against Skočić instead of the issue of the clichéd statement against Skocic’s post and accusing the Croat of publishing lies and untrue statements. It is also prudent to mention how can these statements be prosecuted.

Dragan Skočić feeling of relief and pride after Croatia wins third place.

Croatia ended their World Cup campaign with the pride of claiming third place in a 2-1 win against Morocco, which marked the end of a journey but also promised a bright future, coach Zlatko Dalic said on Saturday.

Croatia, runners-up in 2018, prevailed with goals by Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic to end their World Cup on a high as Luka Modric possibly bid farewell to the soccer extravaganza.

Croatia beat Brazil in the quarter-finals, but for Dalic, Saturday’s bronze medal game was the highlight of their tournament.

“It was a difficult, great match. I want to extend my congratulations to Morocco, they put up a great fight until the last minute, despite the fatigue.

“They can be proud, they remind me of us four years ago. We’re among the best teams in the world.”

Croatia can now look forward to the future with confidence.

“It’s the end of a cycle for us, the end of a journey. Tonight’s match and the win is the moment of the tournament for us,” said Dalic.

“Yes, this is the last World Cup for some of my players today due to their age. But we have young players in the team and it is great for Croatia,” he added, referring to  man of the match Josko Gvardiol, but also Lovro Majer and Borna Sosa.

“We have many of the players on the bench, too.”

Dalic, however, is still counting on his old guard for the Nations League and the Euro 2024 qualifiers.

“We would not have been that far without our older players. We have a great future, Croatia has nothing to fear. Is it the end of an era for a generation? Well, we still have the Nations League and the Euro qualifiers. All I know is that Croatia has a bright future.”

While the proud nation of only 3.8 million people is meager compared to the 9 million living in Tehran only, its football pedigree is something to be proud of. Finalist in the last tournament and third-place winner in the current 2022 edition, the Croats must be feeling elated and proud of their achievements. One person who was robbed of being a happy and proud man is non-other than Dragan Skočić. The Croat former head coach of Team Melli was unceremoniously removed from his post following the return of Mehdi Taj. After taking Iran to the World Cup finals, his reward was dismissal. The win for his country must at least have given Skočić some sense of justice and relief, while Mehdi Taj and his failed team are pondering what to do next, perhaps figure out a trick to reinstate the perpetual failure coach to ruin Iranian football again, this time in Asia Cup 2023.

Dragan Skočić responds to Taj albeit briefly!

A few minutes ago, Team Melli’s former head coach published a post critical of Mehdi Taj and his associate Mehdi Mohammadnabi, which he deleted after a short time. According to Isna, after the return of the Iranian national football team from the World Cup, and failure to qualify from a group, a feat which was quite possible for Iran to advance to the knockout stages, Mehdi Mohammadnabi, the manager and Markar Aghajanian, Queiroz’s assistant, talked about the circumstances yesterday.

In that interview, both criticized the team during Skocic’s era and blamed the head coach, without naming him for Team Melli’s player’s disunity and disagreement!!

While MohammadNabi is a political appointee and an extension of the regime, planted in the FFIRI and Team Melli in particular (his attire and looks give it away immediately), he has the motive to blame this failure on the previous coach and management. However, it was quite surprising that a respectable character and coach Markar Aghajanian joined this bandwagon!!!  Aghajanian is a football personality, he played and coached in addition to being an analyst and advisor. Unlike Mohhamdnabi, he has a footballing pedigree.

Neither Mohammadnabi nor Aghajanian were part of the Team Melli structure in the camp in Doha for their views to be taken seriously. All they are doing is manipulating the views of several anti-Skocic players to use for their own advantage. It is a sick game that is being repeatedly played in Iran’s football circles. It is intensified now that the regime is facing massive protests all across the country. For the record, Carlos Queiroz is handpicked regime head coach.  The regime is also controlling FFIRI.

The Croatian coach responded to them in a post he published on Instagram and Facebook. Dragan Skočić called the results of the national team a failure and attacked Taj and Nabi in the article he published on his social pages. It is unclear why Skocic deleted the post because facts do not lie and will remain for generations. It supports his status and achievements in Team Melli. Under the Croatian, Team Melli was revitalized and brought from the dead to head of the group and qualify for the finals of the World Cup in record time with three matches to spare. Under Taj and Queiroz, Iran was beaten 6-2, the worst result in it history of Iran in the world cup, and then failed to even draw with the USA to qualify due to the expired tactics of Queiroz.

So, to cover for their failures in Doha, this Mohammadnabi starts to blame some players in Team Melli and the previous regime in a cowardly and shameless act.

Dragan Skočić criticizes Team Melli formation.

The former head coach of Team Melli, Dragan Skočić who managed to lead Iran in the qualifying rounds under challenging conditions, to the World Cup to see his hard work being robbed by Carlos Queiroz, criticized the Line up of the team in FIFA World Cup.

After the loss to America, in an interview, Skočić again reviewed the events that happened to him in Iran and his dismissal from the team’s bench and said:

‘As it is, I can say that I have already passed a little. It happened in September.  The tension was high. They kept changing the head of the federation. Finally, a boss was appointed in the federation who also previously was the chief before I came and he practically destroyed my contract and financial commitment. Iran was on the verge of elimination from an early stage of qualification, and for this reason, we were not allowed to lose points in the rest of the qualifiers. We got the best result in the history of Asia in the qualifiers, but it wasn’t enough for me to take the team to the World Cup.

Skočić admitted that he had a difficult time watching Iran. He said: “I am also of flesh and blood, it is hard for me to watch it (Iran games) because I should have been there, but I am strong enough. to bounce again. ” The former head coach of Team Melli then criticized the formations that Carlos Queiroz used in the matches during the three games in the World Cup and stated: “I watched the games. There were many changes, and many different factors involved. In the first game -against England- Iran was extremely cautious. If I were to written 10 different formations for this match, I would not have guessed this formation. I was there for three years and worked closely work the players. Those who played in the World Cup 2022 were not the ones that played in the World Cup qualifiers at all. In the second match – against Wales – he brought Iran closer to the team that was playing in my last term.

only four players did not get any minutes in the three games played as Queiroz used 21 players against England, Wales, and the USA. Amongst the players that were unused Amir Abedzadeh, Vahid Amiri, and Shoja’a  Khalilzadeh were three of the key players for Dragan Skočić team in the preliminary rounds of the qualifiers and played a significant role in Iran’s qualification to the finals. Of course, players such as Sadegh Moharrami, Saman Ghoddos, and Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan did not get much playing time either. Queiroz mainly used a formation that he had confidence in during his eight-year tenure with Team Melli. Hossein Kananizadegan and Khalilzadeh formed a solid partnership in the central defense of Iran when Skočić was at the helm.

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.