Tag: Lionel Messi

Final standing of the FIFA World Cup 2022 is published.

After the conclusion of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, FIFA published the official ranking of all teams.

The four top-ranking were obvious as a result of the matches played to determine ranking Argentina beat France in a penalty shoot-out after a thrilling 3-3 draw in regulation time. In the third-place match, Croatia beat Morocco 2-1.

The rest of the rankings were based on the total matches of all participating teams. The Netherlands was placed fifth ahead of England at 6th.

Iran, which failed to qualify from the group stages for the third time running under the Portuguese coach, Queiroz  was ranked a disappointing 26th


The rest of the rankings were calculated based on the group stages results for the teams that failed to qualify from their groups. Iran lies in 26th place below Saudi Arabia and above Costa Rica. The host nation Qatar was the bottom-ranked team after ending its run with 3 defeats and with just 1 goal scored.


The heartbreaking ranking of Team Melli, coached by the perpetual failure Carlos Queiroz, will be reflected in the latest FIFA ranking which will be published shortly. Iran will lose its top Asian ranking which will be claimed by Japan after a long time. As the World Cup points are valuable, it is not expected that Iran will regain its top Asian ranking for a long time to come.

Ali Daei in the news again

Team Melli legend and former Head Coach is being mentioned repeatedly in the media following the recent goal-scoring spree of Lionel Messi in the FIFA World Cup 2022.

Messi with five goals scored is on par with Kylian Mbappe, the French prodigy as the best scorer of the tournament. The Paris Saint Germain teammates will meet on the final on Sunday for their respective countries Argentina and France. With those 5 goals, Messi is fast advancing to overtake Ali Daei in second place among the World’s Top international scorers.

Messi is 13 goals short of Ali Daei’s tally and 22 short of Ronaldo, the record holder. With Messi having a few more years of his best football still in the tank, he is well-placed to overtake Daei and Ronaldo.

Rank Player Country Goals Caps Ratio First cap Last cap
1 Cristiano Ronaldo  Portugal 118 196 0.6 20 August 2003 10 December 2022
2 Ali Daei  Iran 109 148 0.74 6 June 1993 21 June 2006
3 Lionel Messi  Argentina 96 171 0.56 17 August 2005 13 December 2022
4 Mokhtar Dahari  Malaysia 89 142 0.62 5 June 1972 19 May 1985
5 Ferenc Puskás  Hungary 84 85 0.99 20 August 1945 14 October 1956
Sunil Chhetri  India 84 131 0.64 12 June 2005 27 September 2022
7 Ali Mabkhout  United Arab Emirates 80 109 0.73 15 November 2009 16 November 2022
8 Godfrey Chitalu  Zambia 79 111 0.71 29 June 1968 12 December 1980
9 Hussein Saeed  Iraq 78 137 0.57 5 September 1976 3 March 1990
Robert Lewandowski  Poland 78 138 0.57 10 September 2008 4 December 2022
11 Pelé  Brazil 77 92 0.84 7 July 1957 18 July 1971
Neymar 77 124 0.62 10 August 2010 9 December 2022

The AFC Internet Circus

  • Ehsan Mohammadi
  • Iranian Journalist / Iran Varzeshi
  • Translated from Persian.

Yoval Noah Harari in the introduction to the acclaimed book “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” talks about the term “Digital Dictatorship”. A new dictatorship type that can overturn the facts. Iranian football is slowly being conquered by the army of virtual fans these days. Trench to trench. Fans who roar on social media but don’t even bother to turn up to the stadiums like real fans to watch a match and the stands of the stadia in Iran are getting emptier every year on end.

I admire the valuable functions of cyberspace, but the growth of the Digital Dictatorship is scary. It is wrong to shut down anyone who doesn’t think like us by forming a group and a mouthpiece, or to engage in facts with virtual campaigning and write history little by little in the way we like (not as it is) is Persecution. Even if 80 million people defend it, it is still wrong and unethical.


I wrote a few notes about AFC polls. How did come to realize how to read our hands and learned how to hold polls to increase visits, clicks and votes so that thousands of Iranians could be attacked under the influence of encouragement and to beat the drums happily and then consider success in this childish campaign a sign of excellence and rewrite, and distort history.

The issue of online polls is no different. The best goal of Asia, the most popular player in Asia, the best legionnaire in Asia, the most beautiful player, etc. It doesn’t matter what poll it is, we always win! Why? Because we are Iranians and we have to be the best.

One of the social reasons for this virtual struggle is “trying to clear up the feeling of being left behind.” Assuming that we can get our rights in Asian football with a few likes, clicks and pressing a button on the keyboard, a right we can’t get on the football field!

It has been 50 years since we qualified for the Olympics, we haven’t won the Asian Cup for almost half a century, and the last time an Iranian club won the Asian Champion League (or the Asian Clubs Championship), half of the current league players weren’t even born!

In the latest example, the AFC website ran a poll to choose the best Asian player in the FIFA World Cup.

The Candidates were:

Park Ji Sung / South Korea (three appearances, three goals scored and fourth place title in 2002)

 Sami Al-Jaber / Saudi Arabia (four appearances, three goals scored and one assist)

Tim Cahill / Australia (four appearances, five goals and one assist)

Keisuke Honda / Japan (three appearances, four goals and three assists)

Alireza Beiranvand / Iran (one presence, a clean sheet and Ronaldo’s penalty save)

The result was shocking! Beiranvand topped the table with 68% of the votes, followed by Honda, a distant second with 24%, Sami Jaber 6%, Park Ji Sung with 1% and Tim Kahil with 0%!  Beat on the drum boys and rejoice!!

Even a cooked chicken would giggle at this result, but the media and news agencies in Iran boasted that “Beiranvand became the best Asian in the history of the FIFA World Cup!” Really ….. the best Asian player in the history of the World Cup ?! Do we even believe this ourselves? When reputable news outlets, websites and sports publications publish such unrealistic news without criticism, then they endorse it and recognize it as a fact.

If it was just a hobby in the days of quarantine, it could be bypassed, but it’s ridiculous and dangerous when it goes down in history and is repeated so often in general as a document that no one else dares to criticize it.


I was constantly reminded of the famous story of Hans Christian Anderson when a child shouted “The king is naked”! Why don’t all the journalists and news outlets who know that these kings of the AFC site are not wearing their uniforms not only shout that they are also putting firewood on the fire so that you can go and vote and raise the Iranian flag! With a handful of likes and clicks ?! Isn’t this complicity in a mistake and falsification of history, or has prejudice blinded us so much that we prefer a pleasant lie to a bitter truth?

A few days later, when the professional and real specialists examined the performance of the players (without passion, clinched fists and happy drum rolls), the results were reversed and Alireza Beiranvand ended up at the bottom of the list. According to the experts Park Ji-sung topped the table, followed by Tim Kahil, Sami Al-Jaber and Honda.


This article does not seek to criticize Beiranvand, who is a distinguished player and probably the best goalkeeper in Asia right now. It condemns the credibility and integrity of the AFC circus. Want to be the best in Asia? Then prove it on the football field, otherwise be honored by Championships and trophies that are won on websites by likes, clicks and virtual campaigns. China and India have a population 20 times that of our country, and they can choose any player in their top ten as the best player in the history of the World Cup above the stars like Pele, Maradona and Messi and Ronaldo! …

If this happens, won’t we laugh at them?

Don’t doubt that many in Asia are laughing at us now with our virtual and imaginary internet honors. If we are about national pride, we should not fool ourselves into believing such fallacy.

FIFA Demands Explanation Over Ousted Iranian Footballers

FIFA (Federation Internationale de Football Association), has demanded the Islamic Republic to provide further information over its decision to drop two footballers from Iran’s national team, after they played for their Greek side against an Israeli team.

Captain of Iran’s National Football team, Masoud Shojaei and his teammate, Ehsan Hajsafi played for full ninety minutes in their Greek team, Panionios home match in Athens against the Israeli club, Maccabi Tel Aviv on Wednesday, August 3.

The midfielders were not present at the away match in Israel.

Nevertheless, Iran’s Football federation last week strongly condemned their participation in the home leg of the matches.

Meanwhile, conservatives in Iran bombarded the pair with threats.

“Hajsafi and Shojaei’s move in no way constitutes endorsement and it will certainly be addressed according to regulations and the law,” said Director of Security at Iran’s Sports Ministry, Mohammad Javad Ababaf, adding, “Most probably the pair are going to lose their spots in the national squad. Nevertheless, we should wait for officials’ final verdict.”

Then, on Thursday, August 10, Ministry of Sports’ deputy, Mohammad Reza Davarzani put the final nail in the coffin, declaring, “Both footballers have lost their spot on Iranian National Team… they crossed Iran’s red line”.

Previously it was announced that the final verdict will be issued after a person to person interview with Shojaei and Hajsafi.

FIFA’s statutes ban political interference in its affiliated national associations, which can be suspended if the rule is breached.

Argentina's Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran's Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014

Argentina’s Lionel Messi fights for the ball against Iran’s Mehrdad Pouladi (L) and Ehsan Hajsafi (R) during their 2014 World Cup Group F soccer match. June 21, 2014

“We are currently monitoring the matter and will request additional information from the Iran Football Federation,” said a FIFA spokesperson in an emailed statement to Reuters. “We have no further comment for the time being.”

If a country’s FA is suspended, it means both the national team and its clubs are barred from international competition.

Iran has already qualified for next year’s World Cup, making it an especially delicate matter for FIFA.

FIFA statutes state that “each member association shall manage its affairs independently and without undue influence from third parties”.

However, positive reactions to the pair’s move on social media were quite significant. In most comments, Shojaei and Hajsafi were praised for their courageous “professionalism” and respect for sports international regulations.

There were also comments that branded the move as “an end to the regime’s injustice against Iranian athletes”.

Moreover, a twitter campaign labelled as #NoBan4Ourplayers has been launched by Iranians to defend Shojaei and Hajsafi’s “courageous move”, protest against their elimination from the national side and raise concerns over its consequences.

An internationally known former Iranian football star, Mehdi Mahdavi Kia wrote on his Instagram account, “The moments you made people of Iran joyous will never be forgotten. Let’s hope for the day that politics leaves sports behind and action replaces words”.

Will the real Messi stand up?


We here at Toe Poke love an odd story, and do we have one for you.

This one comes from an unlikely football source, Iran, where a 25-year-old student was detained — yes, detained — over the weekend for looking too much like Barcelona and Argentina superstar Lionel Messi, if you can believe it.

We’ll let that sink in a bit. …

But it’s true! Reza Parastesh looks so much like the five-time Ballon d’Or winner that police in the city of Hamaden brought him to their station and impounded his car because of the commotion he was causing on the streets.

Apparently, too many people were stopping and requesting to take pictures with Parastesh, who has become a bit of a star and, to quote the BBC, “is fully booked with media interviews and has even landed modelling contracts.”


Who is behind his sudden burst of fame, you might wonder? A stage father, of course, who was the first to put him in a Barca No. 10 shirt and snap a photo some 10 months ago. The rest is Doppelgänger history.

“Now people really see me as the Iranian Messi and want me to mimic everything he does,” Parastesh, who says he is working on some football tricks, told AFP. “When I show up somewhere, people are really shocked.

“I’m really happy that seeing me makes them happy, and this happiness gives me a lot of energy.”

Queiroz secret plans leaves Stielike guessing!

Uli Stielike must be scratching his head wondering which team will his counterpart Carlos Queiroz will arrange in Azadi comes Tuesday. The Portuguese coach played 3 different line ups against Qatar, China and Uzbekistan leaving the German coach wondering which game plan he shall deploy.

Queiroz last line up against Uzbekistan must have alarmed quite a few and was bordering high risk for some critics. No one bench 3 of his top players while playing against the top of the table team in away match in a World Cup qualifier! Queiroz, however, did exactly that and to put the icing on the cake, his players won and to make it taste even sweeter, they played one of their finest football in years.

For over 20 minutes in Tashkent, Team Melli was pressing the host, Uzbekistan on the other hand were running out of ideas and short of confidence. The only span of time that the host managed to threaten, but not effectively, was the early minutes of the second half.  After that, Iran regained control, Queiroz masterplan worked like a charm and his players executed it to perfection grabbing all 3 points with this sweet victory away from home.

Whatever the reasons for the constant changing line up by Queiroz (quite uncharacteristic for the ex-Real Madrid and Portugal coach) the man knew exactly what he was doing and that is confirmed by the fact that Iran is heading the table ahead of the other 5 teams.

Queiroz is no stranger to the Koreans battles and thrives in beating the record holders of most Asian team appearances in the World Cup. In the last edition of the qualification, it was that egotistical unwitting South Korean coach Choi Kang-hee who vowed that Carlos Queiroz will have to watch next year’s World Cup in Brazil on television.

The two coaches have traded verbal volleys in the lead-up to that decisive clash in Ulsan and at the end , Choi Kang-hee was the one who ended up watching World Cup on a Samsung TV while Queiroz and the boys was battling it out against the likes of the great Lionel Messi in Brazil.

There is no such animosity between Stielike and Queiroz who have strong mutual respect for each other, however, that does not dilute the intensity of the match in any way.  Stielike must be unsettled trying to figure out what Queiroz is up to tactically. Queiroz putting a lot of thoughts on how to take advantage of the Korean defensive vulnerability, which has conceded 4 goals in 3 matches.

Team Melli is a good shape to grab all the 3 points and looks like the favorite ahead of the World Cup qualifying showpiece event in Azadi. The passionate Iranian fans in the eve of Ashoora could make a big difference too.



Faghani referees FIFA Club World Cup 2015

Alireza Faghani, The Iranian referee who took control of the AFC Asian Cup 2015 has added another honor to his list by being appointed as FIFA Club World Cup 2015 referee.

The final match between Barcelona FC and the South American Champions  River Plate of Argentina is played in  Nissan Stadium (Yokohama) on Sunday 20th December.

Fagahi is the considered the top Asian referee and in recognition of his standard and record, FIFA trusted him with the most important match in its club competition calendar where players such as Messi, Neymar and Iniesta face the tough tackling Argentinian team known for their rough play.

Alireza Faghani is assisted on the line by Reza Sokhandan and Mohammad Reza Mansouri for the Final match.

Iran’s Asian Cup chances weakened by poor preparation, says coach Queiroz

Senior sports reporter with The Age

Iran has been touted as one of the favourites to go all the way and take out the Asian Cup, but if you listen to coach Carlos Queiroz their chances have been vastly over-rated.

The former Manchester United assistant manager and Real Madrid and Portugal coach has been in charge of Team Melli since 2011 and led them to the World Cup in Brazil, where they acquitted themselves honourably against Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia.

But on his arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday ahead of Iran’s opening Asian Cup game against Bahrain on Sunday, Queiroz was quick to play down his side’s hopes, saying their preparation had been compromised by a lack of money and had been far from ideal.

Managing expectations: Carlos Queiroz unhappy with Iran's build up to the Asian CupManaging expectations: Carlos Queiroz unhappy with Iran’s build up to the Asian Cup Photo: AFP

When asked if Iran was now a better team with the experience of the World Cup behind it, Queiroz simply said “no” before pausing.

He added: “Its worse now. Because we did not have the preparation we should have. “When you gamble too much with a bad preparation your chances are not so high as before.”

Queiroz’s frustration has been fuelled by Iran’s lack of activity since their three World Cup matches – a scoreless draw with Nigeria, a 1-0 loss to Argentina (when Lionel Messi’s late winner proved the difference) and a 3-1 defeat to Bosnia.

Since then Team Melli have played only twice, a 1-0 friendly win over South Korea in Tehran in November and a victory over Iraq by the same scoreline in a friendly in Wollongong last Sunday.

“The only thing which is disturbing for our team is the preparation. My team is not prepared as it should be according to the demands and dreams of the Iranian FA because we struggle with some problems, financial problems, to support the team,” Queiroz said.

“Our expectation was to come here with more camps and more games. You can’t have too much expectations when we only play two games from July until now. Its not enough. But I can count on the spirit of the players and the strong mentality to try to make the right balance.”

Queiroz has probably the strongest CV of all the coaches at this tournament, having spent five years (in two separate stints) as Sir Alex Ferguson’s number two at Old Trafford sandwiched by a spell in charge of the Galacticos of Madrid.

In addition he managed perhaps the sport’s biggest star, Cristiano Ronaldo, in the Portuguese national team during the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.


His pessimism over Iran’s prospects are at odds with those pundits who have rated their form on their World Cup exploits.

Queiroz agrees that if they were at the same level as their Brazilian preparation that might be the case.

“A competition like the Asian Cup is always a very difficult and complex situation for all the teams, especially the ones that come from far away. We are mentally prepared to fight for a win in every single game but our explanation and approach is just to think about the next game.

“We know that without the first game, the second game there is no future. For us it’s a very simple approach: be focussed and concentrate on Bahrain, and that’s it, after we start to think about the next game.

“We have been struggling a little bit with the jet lag [and] the environment is very warm and humid for us.”

Looking back at the World Cup, he believes the Iranians were satisfied by the performances against strong opponents.

iran-korea nov14

“I think the priority, the main goal of our participation, was to bring joy and honour to the country for sure. Iran was not one of the teams that were expected to win the World Cup … we didn’t embarrass ourselves against the best teams in the world.

“The game against Argentina, the second game, when you have Messi on the other side and a referee that didn’t have the courage to do his duties, it was more difficult for us. It was clear and embarrassing for the referee not to give a penalty to Iran. If in that game we had got a draw, I think we at least had deserved it.”

Dream of a young Boy fulfilled.


Nearly twelve years ago , a 14 years old boy by the name of Alireza Haghighi had a dream. His dream was to become like his hero Ahmadreza Abedzadeh , Team Melli’s goalkeeper and one of the heroes of the 1998 Iran World Cup team that clinched the only victory of Iran in the World Cup so far.

 The aspiring tall boy, with lots of dreams and not short of confidence either was part of the Iran boys team when he was interviewed by Jam ‘e Jam magazine. In one emphatic sentence Haghighi made his ambition quite clear, he said that he is planning to become like his hero Ahmad Abedzadeh and play for Team Melli in the World Cup. How prophetic this young by was.

Haghighi was not all talk either but quite a skillful goalkeeper with remarkable reflexes and towering presence over the players of his age. The Persepolis young keeper went on to represent the National Team at all ages levels. He went on from boys to youth to Olympic teams and finally the Full Team where he has made 8 appearances so far.


In December 2011, the Russian Club Rubin Kazan sent a transfer request to Persepolis for Haghighi. By 2012 Haghighi has signed a 4 years contract with the Russian Premier League club.  For the whole season, however,  Haghighi was not able to dislodge Kazan main keeper and eventually he was loaned back to Persepolis on July 2013 for a 5 moth contract. He marked his return by playing in Hazfi cup but that was about it. This was not a completely good move for the aspiring keeper who wanted to be the No. 1 goalkeeper for Persepolis but Daei preferred the Brazilian Nelson over Haghighi much to the annoyance of the Iranian. Relations between Daei and Persepolis on one side and Haghighi on the other   deteriorated with the news taking the rounds that Daei has sacked Haghighi his reserve keeper and asked him not to attend training for being a disturbing  element and unsettling influence on the rest of the team.

Haghighi returned back to his club Rubin Kazan. In an attempt to rescue his season , Rubin Kazan arranged another load deal with a struggling second division Portuguese club called Sporting Covilhã who were fighting for survival and drop to the obscurity of Portugal’s third division.

haghighi portugal

Haghighi had no choice but to agree to the deal in order to maintain his form and play regular competitive football. Of course it was a far cry from the chance of playing a role in a famous Russian club that has even defeated Barcelona in a Champions league match once  or play with Persepolis against Esteghlal in front of 100,000 fans in Azadi. The obscurity of second division Sporting Covilhã  has threatened to send Haghighi into Oblivion until Queiroz came calling!


Haghighi (26 years old) was named in the origin 30 players list that was sent to 2014 FIFA World Cup. Raised eyebrows were aplenty to this peculiar selection by Queiroz. In reality, Haghighi did not even play one single league match since January 2012 in Iran or Russia, to justify his selection. His only competitive in Iran while on loan was two Cup matches against unknown non-league teams.


While Queiroz was bemoaning the fact that none of Team Melli players have European Champions League experience, it was a bizarre act for him to select a player who had no league action at all in two seasons, expect for the 12 matches he played in Portugal lower division.


The icing on the cake was Alireza Haghighi’s inclusion in the final 23 players list to Brazil.

 Iran's goalkeeper Haghighi fails to save a goal by Argentina's Messi during their 2014 World Cup Group F match at the Mineirao stadium in Belo Horizonte

In the first match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup , the selection of Haghighi against Nigeria, made many fans nervous, but that young boy’s dream has already been fulfilled and there was no turning back. Haghighi Kept a clean sheet. His performance was solid enough for Queiroz to pick him up again this time in a much more demanding task of defending his goal against the likes of Higuain , Aguero , Di Maria and the great Lionel Messi of Argentina.

In truth, Haghighi played magnificently well against one of the title contenders , made a great save against Higuain early on and was minutes away from keeping a memorable clean sheet except for that great Messi. Fate was not on his Iran’s side as the Barcelona hero Messi scored in the injury time and he made the difference. Haghighi could not be blamed for that goal either.


The story of the young boys coming good continues.


 Alireza Haghighi Team Melli record 


2002                  Iran U-15             7            

2004–2005          Iran U-17             5            

2005–2006          Iran U-20             6            

2006–2010          Iran U-23             4





Tehran Tarantula.

In football, the nicknames go beyond the mere reflection of the physical aspect, and sometimes even replace the baptism names. The “Five Violins”, a name that Tavares da Silva created the famous advanced line of Sporting 1940s, refers to a total harmony between performers, the “Black Panther” of Eusebio’s evokes physical power and speed. These are the best known Portuguese football. In South American football, many goalkeepers are “el gato”, which gives an idea of ​​agility, field players can be “cholo”, “flaco”, etc..Maradona Maradona and his name will always be synonymous with his own, but some people have created a religion around Maradona and you call God.

One of the most famous nicknames in the history of world football who won the Lev Yashin, the great Soviet goalkeeper. He was the “Black Spider”, not only because they always wore black (and dressed, from head to toe), but because it was an agile, athletic and seemed to have more than two arms outstretched keeper. Seeing the Argentina-Iran last Saturday, which ended with the Argentine 1-0 victory, another work of art by Lionel Messi, I felt like inventing a nickname for Alireza Haghighi, Iran goalkeeper who plays for Sporting da Covilhã and only failed to stop the big shot of the Argentine “Flea” of Barcelona. Here it is, with alliteration in “T”: the Tehran Tarantula.

Messi “It was difficult to break down their (Iran) defense”

Lionel Messi claims Argentina will improve despite unconvincing FIFA World Cup™ performances in the two victories which have secured qualification for the knock-out rounds.

Messi came to the rescue again against Iran on Saturday, scoring in injury time to clinch a 1-0 win. That followed another Messi trademark goal to ensure a 2-1 win over Bosnia and Herzegovina in Argentina’s opening match.

The Barcelona forward said: “If we analyse both matches we might say we can play better but as we progress in the tournament we will improve and reach our full potential. We know we are not playing as well as we are expected. But we have qualified for the next round and that was our first objective.”

Messi, who called his goal “a wonderful moment”, admitted it had been difficult to overcome the challenge posed by a determined Iran side. “It was difficult to break down their defence and find space,” added Messi. “It’s tough to play against teams that close up like they did.

“We have to correct our mistakes and we are the first to realise that we aren’t playing at the level we want to. We were at least able to get the three points which means we don’t have to suffer in the last match.”

Argentina’s manager Alejandro Sabella, not for the first time, paid tribute to Messi’s influence. He said: “All the players contributed to the victory but of course we have a genius who is called Messi. Fortunately he is Argentine – everyone would like to have Messi but it is us who have him.”

Argentina will meet the runner-up from Group E – likely to be either Ecuador or Switzerland – in Sao Paulo if they top Group