Tag: FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Qualifiers

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.

Team Melli ends the qualification rounds with a win against Lebanon.

Mashad: Iran completed their AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™ schedule in style, eliminating Lebanon from playoff contention with a 2-0 victory at the Imam Reza Stadium on Tuesday.
Goals from Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh continued Team Melli’s superb form on home soil and ensured they will go into Friday’s FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ draw full of confidence after an outstanding campaign.

Lebanon came into the Matchday 10 clash with the door to June’s AFC qualification playoff ever so slightly ajar, but a sixth Group A defeat meant Mashhad marked the end of the road for Ivan Hašek’s side.

While the Cedars came into the tie without the likes of Soony Saad and Hassan Maatouk, Iran welcomed back Jahanbakhsh, who missed Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to Korea Republic, and it was the Feyenoord star who forced a solid save from Mostafa Matar with the game’s first real chance, a well struck 20-yard effort in the 19th minute.
Dragan Skočić’s men monopolised early possession, while Lebanon looked to minimise clear cut chances for their opponents, but the visiting side’s resistance was broken by a goal of beautiful simplicity, with Hossein Kanani dissecting the defence to find Azmoun’s perfectly timed run, with the Bayer Leverkusen forward easing the ball home from 12 yards in the 35th minute.
Iran looked to be cruising at that stage, but the hosts were almost punished for some untidy moments in possession prior to the interval, with Hussein Zein sending a rare Lebanese effort on goal narrowly over Alireza Beiranvand’s crossbar in the final minute of the first half.
The hosts continued to live dangerously after the break, with Hilal El Helwe sending Beiranvand sprawling with a volleyed effort that went only inches wide in the 48th minute, but Lebanon’s slim hopes were finally dashed when the Iranian captain put the result beyond doubt with just under 20 minutes remaining.
Again, it was a Kanani pass that unlocked the Lebanese defence, with his lofted ball catching out a much higher defensive line before Jahanbakhsh (pictured below, centre) beat Matar with a cultured side-footed effort which sent the bouncing ball floating into the net from 15 yards.
In Dubai, the UAE team fought gallantly to defeat South Korea 1-0 to seal its position in the AFC playoff and also

confirm Iran as the group winners.

With their third successive FIFA World Cup appearance long secured, Iran’s latest win means they overtake  Korea Republic in group A.


Group A

Final Standing

10 8 1 1 15 4 11 25
10 7 2 1 13 3 10 23
10 3 3 4 7 7 0 12
10 1 6 3 6 12 -6 9
10 1 3 6 9 16 -7 6
10 1 3 6 5 13 -8 6

UAE call on fans to help fire them on in World Cup crunch against South Korea

The UAE insists they can keep alive their chances of making it to the World Cup by inflicting defeat on unbeaten South Korea on Tuesday night – but acknowledge they will need the backing of fervent home support to make it happen.

The national team would have secured third place in the qualifying group – and thus a place in the play-off phase – had they not lost to Iraq in a dismal game in Saudi Arabia last week.

They still have a one-point lead over the Iraqis ahead of the final matchday. However, while Iraq will face last-placed Syria in their final match, the UAE will simultaneously be playing South Korea, the top-ranked side who have not lost a game in the nine matches in the group so far.

Despite the daunting task, defender Abdulaziz Haikal says the home team is capable of advancing and has implored fans to help them in their bid to do so at the Al Maktoum Stadium.

“We still have hopes to get third place and qualification is still in our hands,” Haikal said.

“We will fight to the end, but we need the support of the fans. If they are here, we can win the match.

“Our preparation has been like any other match, but we realize the importance of this. We have to fight to win. We are preparing technically and mentally for this match.

“We are representing our country and our flag. We need help from the fans, and we promise them we will change the picture from the last performance.”

Rodolfo Arruabarrena, the UAE coach, said fans will see a marked improvement from the listless display against Iraq, which culminated in a 1-0 defeat.

“I know we didn’t produce the performance everyone expected from us against Iraq,” Arruabarrena said.

“There were no clear chances for scoring. Anyone who watched the match on TV would have fallen asleep because it was such a bad match.

“But [against South Korea] we will see another performance. I trust the players. I have seen at training that they want to make something happen.”

The hosts’ task has been made all the more challenging by the absence, through suspension, of Ali Mabkhout.

The striker has scored more goals – 14 – than any other player in the world in the course of qualifying for the World Cup.

“We have to win the game by any means possible,” Arruabarrena said.

“Iraq made it a very tough match. They closed the space and there were no clear chances. Now for us, we have to find a win by any way possible.”

Paulo Bento, the South Korea coach, said: “it is not our business” who takes third place, as he pointed out, “we have done our job, we achieved our goal” having already secured qualification.

“In the last game, we went past Iran and achieved first position,” Bento said, referencing his side’s 2-0 win in Seoul on Thursday.

“Now we would like to keep that position. That is enough for us to be motivated and focused for the game.”

The Portuguese coach is committed to winning the qualifying group, rather than experimenting with personnel or resting players.

“We will choose the best starting XI possible to achieve our goal,” Bento said.

“We want to close these qualifiers in the best possible way, gaining the three points. This is an important game for us because winning this game will mean we finish in first place in the group.

“For us, it is a very important game so we are not going to concede opportunities to the players depending on whether they have played more or fewer minutes in the previous games.”

Kim Yong-Gwon, the South Korea center-back who scored in the win over Iran, echoed Bento’s comments. “We have already qualified, yes, but we are a team that tries to put everything into each match,” Kim said. “There will be less pressure, of course, but we will try to play with confidence. All the players know what we need to do on the pitch. We will put 100 percent into the game.”

A win for Team Melli against Lebanon, while UAE stops the Koreans will result in Iran taking the lead of Group A and a better place in the seeding for the draw on Friday.

Iran- Lebanon : Match preview

Mashhad: Lebanon will look to keep their slim playoff hopes alive, while Iran’s focus rests on clinching top spot in Group A when the two sides meet in their final AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™ Group A fixture on Tuesday.
A 3-0 home loss to already-eliminated Syria last time out did severe damage to Lebanon’s hopes of reaching their first ever global Finals via June’s playoffs but results elsewhere mean Ivan Hašek’s retain a glimmer of hope going into Matchday 10.

Three points behind third-placed United Arab Emirates, and two short of fourth-placed Iraq, the Cedars can still claim the playoff spot for themselves should they defeat high-flying Iran, in addition to results in the group’s two other fixtures all their way.

Even the first element of that scenario is no easy task.


Team Melli hasn’t lost a FIFA World Cup Qualifier on home soil since November 2012 and has been similarly difficult to beat there in this campaign, with Son Heung-min the only player in Group A to find the back of the net for a visiting team in Iran.

Dragan Skočić’s side – who qualified for Qatar 2022 weeks ago – will welcome back Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who missed Thursday’s 2-0 defeat to the Korea Republic due to COVID-19, while Sardar Azmoun is expected to lead the line in the absence of Mehdi Taremi, who also returned a positive test prior to the match in Seoul.

But while the Iranian squad is filled with European-based stars, Lebanon’s biggest task may well be to overcome the disappointment of Thursday’s defeat.

With a playoff place on offer, the Cedars failed to perform in Saida, slumping to a disastrous 3-0 defeat to a side that had taken just two points from their previous eight matches in Group A.

That result came as a devastating blow, but Iraq’s win over the United Arab Emirates a few hours later meant that Lebanon’s campaign retains a sense, however slight, of final day optimism.

Hašek and his players may well take confidence from their earlier meeting with Iran, played last November, when a Soony Sadd goal had Lebanon 1-0 ahead going into second-half stoppage time, only for late goals from Azmoun and Ahmad Nourollahi to dramatically snatch all three points for the visitors.

The Lebanese outfit also seems to thrive away from home. While their five home games have produced only a solitary point, they have taken five from four matches on the road, with their only away defeat coming against group leaders the Korea Republic.

They have never beaten Team Melli in Iran, but they did famously claim a 1-0 win in a World Cup Qualifier in Beirut back in 2012.

If the Lebanese class of 2022 can shrug off the disappointment of last week’s defeat and produce a shock of their own, all eyes will turn to Dubai, where the results of both the United Arab Emirates and Iraq will reveal the final twist in what has been a dramatic Asian Qualifiers tale.



H / A / N Matches W D L Goals + / –
H 4 4 0 0 14 – 0 +14
A 6 4 1 1 13 – 3 +10
N 1 1 0 0 2 – 0 +2
Total 11 9 1 1 29 – 3 +26
Date Comp. H / A / N Final score Stadium Attendance
11.11.2021 World Cup Qualifier / Round 3 – Group A A 2 – 1 Saïda International Stadium (Saïda ) 100
19.11.2013 Asian Cup Qualifier A 4 – 1 Sports City, Beirut 0
11.06.2013 World Cup Qualifier H 4 – 0 Azadi Stadium, Tehran 91,300
06.02.2013 Asian Cup Qualifier / Group B H 5 – 0 Azadi Stadium, Tehran 19,733
11.09.2012 World Cup Qualifier A 0 – 1 Camille Chamoun Sports City, Beirut 10,000
17.06.2004 WAFF / WAFF H 4 – 0 Azadi Stadium, Tehran 40,000
28.11.2003 Asian Cup Qualifier H 1 – 0 Azadi Stadium, Tehran 20,000
19.11.2003 Asian Cup Qualifier A 3 – 0 Sports City, Beirut 5,000
03.09.2002 WAFF / Group 1 N 2 – 0 Al Abbassyin  Stadium, Damascus 2,000
12.10.2000 Asian Cup / Group A A 4 – 0 Sports City, Beirut 52,418
13.11.1996 Friendly / Friendly A 0 – 0 Beirut 50,000

Created by www.teammelli.com . All rights reserved © 2009 Team Melli Website – Updated Jan. 2022


South Koreans grab a win against Iran.

Seoul: Korea Republic moved to the top of Group A in the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™ after a 2-0 victory over the Islamic Republic of Iran on Thursday saw them climb above their opponents with a game to play.
After dominating the first 45 minutes at Seoul World Cup Stadium, Korea opened the scoring on the stroke of half-time through Son Heung-min before Kim Young-gwon doubled their advantage in the 63rd minute with the goal that ultimately killed off the Iranian challenge.
The victory meant Korea claimed a first win over Iran in more than a decade as they also dealt the Iranians their first defeat in Group A to mean they go into their final game away to the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday knowing three more points would see them win the group.
While both sides had already secured their passage to the FIFA World Cup, there remained top spot in the standings left to play for as Korea also sought their first win over the Iranians since the 2011 AFC Asian Cup™, with the sides having faced off seven times since.

Both Son and Hwang Hee-chan returned to the Taeguk Warriors’ line-up having missed the previous qualifiers, while Team Melli were without leading scorer Mehdi Taremi, captain Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Saman Ghoddos, with COVID-19 ruling the trio out.
And it was Paulo Bento’s side who had the first chance of note when just before the 10-minute mark Hwang Ui-jo slipped the ball to Son on the left before darting to the near post and heading the Tottenham Hotspur forward’s first-time delivery just wide.

Korea controlled the majority of the play in the opening 45 minutes but an Iranian backline that had conceded just twice in eight matches to date stood firm until first-half stoppage time when Son’s third goal in Group A broke the deadlock.
The Korean captain was first to a loose ball, skipping round Ahmad Noorollahi in the process and advancing goalwards before unleashing a fizzing shot from 25 yards that proved too hot to handle for ‘keeper Amir Abedzadeh who in truth should have done better.

Korea could have doubled their lead shortly after the restart when Hwang Hee-chan raced through the Iranian defense before slipping in Son, only for the forward to be denied by a superb save from the outrushing Abedzadeh, who was then up quickly to keep out Hwang Ui-jo’s follow-up as he went some way towards making amends for his earlier error.
Bento’s side then did open up a two-goal cushion when good interchange play between Lee Jae-sung and Hwang Hee-chan down the left led to the former playing a low ball into the center for defender Kim – up for a corner just moments earlier – to send home from six yards.

The visitors had their best chance of the night with a little over 10 minutes to play when substitute Allahyar Sayyadmanesh delivered an inviting ball in from the right that the diving Sardar Azmoun could only head into the hands of a grateful Kim Seung-gyu.
Azmoun then played a lovely backheel into the path of Sayyadmanesh just seconds later but, with only Kim to beat, the Hull City forward dinked the ball over the ‘keeper and wide.

Son could have killed the game off with six minutes remaining but saw his goalbound effort deflected wide by Hossein Kanani as the game ended 2-0 and the Koreans maintained their unbeaten record.

Korea now sits a point above Iran ahead of Tuesday’s Matchday 10 clash with the UAE in Dubai, where victory would see them win Group A. Iran, meanwhile, return to Mashhad to round off their campaign against Lebanon.

What are the options of Skocic against South Korea?

Any coach who loses nearly half of his starting players needs to be worried, Skocic is not an exception despite his assertion in the pre-match press conference that Iran will stick to the same game plan and will not resort to a defensive game.

Sadegh Moharrami, Saeid Ezatollahi, Alireza Jahanbaksh, Saman Ghoddod, and Mehdi Taremi, are the five players who started the last match against the UAE but will be missing from the game against South Korea.

Perhaps the two most significant and important players would be Taremi, whose goals have been pushing Iran up in the table and winning the games for Team Melli, and then Jahanbakhsh, an inspiration and a key player whose much-improved game has meant a powerful Iranian side that has not been defeated in the competition. It is not that the rest of the absentees are less important, but the reality is that Jahanbakhsh’s and Taremi’s absence has the biggest impact.

Despite that, Iran’s bench is far from poor and has many players that can fill the gap. Skocic will have to wight his options carefully and play a balanced game against the Koreans. He is right in saying that Iran will not go into a defensive mode, as this will just give the Koreans an advantage, so what are his options?

Expected Line-Up

In the goal, there is very little doubt that Amir Abedzadeh will continue being the number one ahead of Beiranvand.

Amir Abedzadeh

In defense, the absence of Moharrami can be easily covered with several options. Milad Mohammadi and Majid Hosseini are both available and capable despite the fact that it will not be their ideal posts. Mohammadi is a left-back while Hosseini normally plays in the center. A switch of posts is quite possible, however, since the team needs pace against the nifty Koreans, Mohammadi seems better suited for this match.

Milad Mohammadi

Middle of the field, where Team Melli has had good control in the qualifiers, is the most affected with the loss of two key players. For the holding defensive Midfield, Milad Sarlak, is a player with industry and stamina seems to be a good option for a starting place along with Ehsan Hajsafy.  This selection will give Skocic another option as Hajsafy can also operate as the pseudo-right back and switch play at that post. For the offensive side, Nourollahi and Gholizadeh are the most suitable combination. With the scheming of Nourollahi, and the close tight control of Gholizadeh, the forward line will be fed properly in the offensive moves. Vahid Amiri can be employed slightly further up the line or operate as a winger in a 4-4-2 system. Skocic will most probably start him in the midfield role before seeing how the game is progressing.

Milad Sarlak
Ahmad Nourollahi

Upfront, there is little doubt that Sardar Azmoun will take his rightful place as the sole forward, Despite a drop in form after recovering from injury and covid, Azamoun remains the best options upfront in the absence of the talismanic Taremi.

Sardar Azmoun

Much will depend on the progress of the match but our prediction is that Skocic will start with 4-5-1 system that will switch to 4-4-2 in the offensive part.  Other players for consideration are Mehdi Torabi, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, Karim Ansarifard.





S. Korea coach willing to take risks vs. Iran in World Cup qualifier

SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) — Chasing the top seed in South Korea’s group in the final Asian World Cup qualification round, head coach Paulo Bento on Wednesday called on his players to “take some risks” in their next showdown against Iran.

South Korea will host Iran at Seoul World Cup Stadium at 8 p.m. Thursday. It will be the penultimate match in the current World Cup qualifying phase for the two countries, both of which have already secured spots in the big tournament.

With Iran leading Group A at 22 points and South Korea sitting in second place at 20 points, Bento has repeatedly talked about wanting to overtake the Middle Eastern powers for first place. South Korea will have to play out of their comfort zone to accomplish that, Bento said.

Paulo Bento (R), head coach of the South Korean men's national football team, speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on March 23, 2022, on the eve of a World Cup qualifying match against Iran, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

Paulo Bento (R), head coach of the South Korean men’s national football team, speaks at a press conference at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on March 23, 2022, on the eve of a World Cup qualifying match against Iran, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association.

“A draw for them (Iran) is a result that can make them stay in the first position. On the other side, there will be a team (South Korea) that wants to reach three points and first position, and, of course, should take some risks during the game,” Bento said at his online press conference from the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province. “I am confident we’ll be able to take those risks and reach the victory, and make our fans happy.”

South Korea last defeated Iran in January 2011. Iran won their next four meetings by 1-0, and the two have had three consecutive draws since, including a 1-1 tie in October last year in Tehran.


Things will be quite different this time around. Both countries have lost a few players to COVID-19 infections, but Iran, minus their two leading scorers in Mehdi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, have suffered a bigger blow.

Members of the South Korean men's national football team train at the National Football Center in Paju, Gyeonggi Province, on March 23, 2022, on the eve of a World Cup qualifying match against Iran, in this photo provided by the Korea Football Association. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

But Bento remained wary of Iran’s quality.

“We should play as we played before during this phase of qualifying; trying to control and dominate the game through ball possession, and trying to play in opponent’s midfield as much as we can,” Bento said. “And of course, we should take into consideration that we’re going to play against a strong team. We need to attack as much as we can. At the same time, (we should) respect the opponent. When the moment dictates that we should defend, we should be able to do that as well.”

As for South Korea’s own absences, which include young, useful midfielders Paik Seung-ho and Kim Jin-gyu, Bento said he will just have to find ways to beat Iran with the players he has.

“(Paik and Kim) are players that, due to their features, allow the team to play with a different way. They adapt themselves to many tactical systems,” Bento said. “We need to find the right tactical system to play tomorrow. We will play with a strong starting XI. We will have options on the bench to use during the match. And of course, all of the coaches like to have all the players available, but it’s not always possible to have all of them available. We need to find the solutions and make the team compete in the best possible way.”

Match Preview: Korea Republic v  Iran

Seoul: Top spot in Group A is on the line when familiar foes the Korea Republic and Iran clash on Matchday Nine of the AFC Asian Qualifiers – Road to Qatar™ at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Thursday.
Both teams have already secured their passage to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ having wrapped up the first two places with minimal fuss, while the pair remain unbeaten after eight games.
The Iranians currently sit two points above the Taeguk Warriors with two games to play and if they avoid defeat in the Korean capital, Team Melli will go into their final fixture against Lebanon in Mashhad as firm favorites to progress as group winners.
Iran and Korea last faced off on Matchday Four at Azadi Stadium and there was little to separate the sides as they played out an entertaining 1-1 draw with Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s leveler canceling out Son Heung-min’s opener.
Since then, they have each won all four of their games, with Iran booking their ticket to the FIFA World Cup Qatar™ following a 1-0 victory over neighbors Iraq on Matchday Seven and the Koreans joining them after a 2-0 win against Syria on Matchday Eight.

Another successful qualifying campaign has seen the Iranians advance to the global showpiece for the sixth time, and third in a row, while Korea’s record is among the best in world football as they have now reached an incredible 10 successive FIFA World Cups.
The match-up at Seoul World Cup Stadium brings back memories of the final round of the 2018 AFC Asian Qualifiers when Iran, already confirmed as group winners, also traveled to the Korean capital on the penultimate game.

With Korea still involved in a battle for the second spot, the sides played out a goalless draw as Carlos Queiroz’s 10-man Iran posted a ninth successive clean sheet following a trademark resolute performance at the back.

It was another in a long list of matches in what is one of Asian football’s biggest rivalries, with the sides having met numerous times over the years, including in the past four FIFA World Cup qualifying campaigns.

The last three meetings have all ended in draws, while Iran had won the previous four – all by a 1-0 scoreline – as they proved a continuous thorn in the Korean side. You have to go back to the 2011 AFC Asian Cup™ quarter-finals for the last time Korea recorded a victory.

Ahead of the latest battle in the rivalry, Iran has been dealt a triple blow with captain Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi, and Saman Ghoddos all ruled out of Dragan Skocic’s squad through COVID-19.
Paulo Bento has few such worries with star man Son arriving on the back of bagging a brace in Tottenham Hotspur’s win over West Ham United on Sunday and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ Hwang Hee-chan returning after missing the last two AFC Asian Qualifiers due to injury.

The game marks Korea’s final home match in Group A as they travel to Dubai to take on the United Arab Emirates on March 29, when Iran will bring the curtain down on their campaign at home to Lebanon.

Korea Republic v  Iran
Venue: Seoul World Cup Stadium, Seoul
Kick-off: March 24, 20:00 (UTC+9)

A difficult game’ vs. Iran with top seed at stake in World Cup qualifying group, Bento predicts

provided by the KFA. (Yonhap)

With one box checked, Paulo Bento has quickly shifted his focus to the next goal to achieve.

Under his tutelage, South Korea have already booked a ticket to Qatar for this year’s FIFA World Cup with two qualifying matches left. Few would have batted an eye if Bento had chosen to take his foot off the pedal for the rest of the current qualifying campaign.

Instead, Bento on Monday called up most of his usual suspects in a bid to win his team’s final two qualifying matches this month. South Korea will host Iran in Seoul on March 24 and wrap up the final Asian qualifying round by visiting Dubai to play the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on March 29.

With 20 points after eight matches, South Korea are in second place in Group A of the ongoing round, two points back of Iran. The top two teams from each of the two groups in this round will earn automatic berths. Iran and South Korea are already in, while Saudi Arabia, Japan, and Australia are still duking it out for the two tickets in Group B.

Instead of playing it safe this month, Bento has taken dead aim at Iran for the top seed in Group A. Winning the group and rising in the FIFA rankings should also help South Korea’s position in the World Cup draw, allowing them to avoid some tough countries, though Bento said he wasn’t yet thinking ahead to the draw.

“We have two games. We should think how we’re going to face the next opponents and how we can do our job and try to finalize this qualifier in the best possible way,” Bento said at his online press conference Monday. “And that is to get the six points and finish in the first place. After that, we will see what’s coming and see where we’re going to be in the draw. I think we have a good challenge before that.”

Facing Iran has been a challenge for South Korea for years. South Korea’s last victory against the Middle Eastern foe came in January 2011. In their most recent meeting, held in Tehran in October, the teams ended in a 1-1 draw, with South Korea blowing a 1-0 lead in the second half.

South Korea has managed just nine wins against 10 draws and 13 draws all-time versus Iran.

“In the physical aspect as well as in the tactical one, Iran has players that can break the balance in our team, players that have experience,” Bento said. “I have no doubt about their quality. We will try to reach the victory in order to reach the first position in the group. I am sure that it will be a difficult game but at the same time, I am convinced that we can do that and we’re going to try to do that without any doubt.”

To that end, Bento went back to the likes of Son Heung-min, who leads Tottenham Hotspur in goals this season, and Hwang Ui-jo, FC Girondins Bordeaux forward and one of Bento’s most trusted offensive options.

But the coach also made a couple of surprise choices on defense, with Suwon FC defender Park Min-gyu and Seoul E-Land back Lee Jae-ik.

This is Park’s first senior national team callup. Lee had been brought in during the previous World Cup qualifying round in October 2019 but didn’t play in any matches then.

With the starting center back Kim Young-gwon playing with a yellow card — one away from automatic suspension — and another veteran Kwon Kyung-won apparently not 100 percent, Bento said he wanted extra options on his backline. He reserved particularly high praise for the 26-year-old Park, who had appeared in 12 matches for the under-20 national team.

“Park is a good player in the technical aspect. We know he has good defensive principles,” Bento said. “It’s a good opportunity to see him in our context.”

Team Melli Squad list announced.

Team Melli will play complete its FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 schedule by playing a double-header against South Korea and Lebanon on March 24th and 29th respectively. With a day before flying to Seoul on a chartered plane. the squad for the two matches was announced. Iran has qualified for the finals in Qatar and will be battling the Koreans for a top-of-the-table finish and more importantly a significant addition of points in FIFA ranking. The draw in June will seed countries for the Finals based on total points in FIFA Ranking.

Dragan Skočić has announced the list of players invited to the national team camp. The Croat coach is desperate to keep his immaculate, near-perfect record with Team Melli after over two years from his appointment replacing the perpetual failure Marc Wilmots.

The names of the invited players:

    • Goalkeepers:
  1. Alireza Biranvand
  2. Amir Abedzadeh
  3. Hossein Hosseini
    • Defenders:
  4. Sadegh Moharremi
  5. Hossein Kananizadegan
  6. Shoja’a Khalilzadeh
  7. Majid Hosseini
  8. Omid Nourafkan
  9. Milad Mohammadi
  10. Daniel Ismaelifar
  11. Farshad Faraji
  12. Aref Gholami
    • Midfielders:
  13. Saeed Ezatollahi
  14. Kamal Kamiyabinia
  15. Mehdi Mehdipour
  16. Amirhossein Hassanzadeh
  17. Milad Sarlak
  18. Ehsan Haj Safi
  19. Vahid Amiri
  20. Mehdi Torabi
  21. Ahmad Noorollahi
  22. Saman Ghoddos
  23. Ali Gholizadeh
    • Forwards:
  24. Mehdi Taremi
  25. Alireza Jahanbakhsh
  26. Sardar Azmoun
  27. Karim Ansarifard
  28. Allahyar Sayadmanesh

Two players Saeed Ezatollahi and Sadegh Moharremi are suspended for the Korea Rep match with an accumulation of two cards, while Hossein Kananizadegan is surprisingly included in the list despite being sanctioned by the disciplinary committee!!