Tag: Mahdi Taremi


Team Melli is enjoying the view from the top in Group A of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifying rounds. A statistical analysis rather than a scientific one gives Team Melli a 68% chance of qualifying to Qatar as the table stands now. With just one match short of halfway, that is a high percentage and a source of confidence for the fans in the team looking ahead for a historical milestone, the third consecutive qualification to the World Cup finals.

However, there is as always, a lot of room for development as all is not well. The focus of this article is on the coaching and the vital role the whole staff played in these results.

To start with and to make things clear, anyone who discredits the coach and places the success of the team purely on the individual players or other factors is either ignorant or has a grudge against the coach, and by God, there are a lot of them in Iran.

When the name of the new Team Melli coach was announced, many people asked, “Dragan who?”. The fans and critics should not be blamed because the reality was that Skocic was not a household name, and his CV contained the name of uninspiring Persian Gulf league clubs only. Not exactly on the same level of coaching Manchester United, Portugal National Team, South Africa, and even UAE which Carlos Queiroz had. Even the doomed Marc Wilmots had a much better CV.

So, the pessimism of the fans could be justified, and the doubters started growing in numbers as some mainstream Iranian media looked like it was on a mission to subconsciously destroy the Croatian Dragan Skočić. Reminiscing about the glorious days of Carlos Queiroz while finding faults in Skočić tactics or players selection, to the extent of making up stories. The fact that the Portuguese coach did not achieve any championships or titles and failed to win the AFC Asian Cup twice, seemed not to matter!

Others, in the minority, had a different idea and believed anything is better than Marc Wilmots, which in reality, made sense as Belgian has to go on record as one of the worst coaches who sat on the bench of Team Melli.

But Dragan Skočić proved his doubter wrong. He prevailed and did not give up against his domestic opponents winning one match after another, breaking records in the process, and having a high chance of qualifying to the World Cup while we have not reached even the halfway stage.

Football is not exactly rocket science. It is popular because it is such a simple game to play and understand (although offside rules and when a handball is a handball is still confusing millions of people across the World).

As such errors by players and coaches are easily recognized especially in these days of technological advances. So, although the coach and his assistances, know them inside out of the team, the capabilities of his player, physical condition, and most importantly the emotional and the psychological status of his players which always remains out of view for the fans, the team mistakes in many areas can be singled out by expertise and critics.

Provided there is no ill intent, the criticism of a coach can benefit him.  Dragan Skočić, who undoubtedly and unequivocally has done a marvelous job since his appointment, can really gain pointers and benefits from the view outside the box.

Here we will only mention three areas of concern with the way Skocic manages the team

Game Plan: Predictable, lacks diversity, and seems like an open book to the opposing coach. Team Melli is heavily suffering in the midfield that has no imagination and low effectiveness. With a lack of pace, which is no fault of the coach, he does need to offer a solution which is not doing right now. Players like Azmoun and Taremi need services to be effective and they are not getting it. When a player in the caliber of Saman Ghoddos is available but warming the bench, one must question the coach’s reading of the game.

In modern football, it is the midfield where battles are won and lost. The tactics of the world’s leading teams are fundamentally midfield dependent, Skocic chose otherwise. It is his call of course and his selection of game plan, but it is clear that ignoring the midfield might become a  risky matter especially against the pressing teams.

Perhaps Taremi, Azmoun, and Jahanbakhsh in one line forward is not the right strategy for Team Melli. He needs to experiment with one forward and pack the midfield with players using the flanks with pace and ball crossing skills. Never mind the ego of these superstars, the interest of the Team is above the interest of the individuals.

 Many past coaches on Team Meli had some obsession of playing a certain limited number of players, hardly changing the squad or the starting lineup. it seems Skocic is joining that league. It is not an effective mindset and detrimental to the team and the capable players sitting on the bench waiting for a possibly 30-second cameo show.

Substitutions: This is where many coaches excel or fail. While Skocic has made a few effective substitutions, he is guilty of not utilizing his expensive and experience players. And what is this with minute 90+5 substitutions that he is been using? Such substitution is an utter waste of time, bordering idiocy. In fact, many coaches do that for no logical reason and the rest have the herd mentality and simply imitate. A player needs at least 15 minutes to be effective, anything less than that is just a game of luck nothing more.

Preparations & Readiness: It is quite embarrassing for Team Melli to go into an official match with absolute minimum preparation. There is where the character of the Team Melli coach needs to stand out and prevail. If the lack of international friendly matches is due to Skocic, then he needs to rectify his way and start planning and programming for FIFA days like a professional. If the fault is because of Azizi Khadem and his bureaucrats in FFIRI, then Skocic needs to impose himself and strongly demand proper perpetration for the National Team with international friendly matches as a priority. Skocic cannot afford to do trial game plans and tactical changes in competition match as it may turn out costly. Every respectable team in the world arranges friendlies, Iran is becoming the odd exception and frankly a disgrace. it is worrying by all accounts.

Coach comments signal the end for Alireza Jahanbakhsh at Brighton.

One of the many difficult transfer decisions for Brighton and Hove Albion to make this summer is the future of Iranian winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh has made just three starts in the Premier League for Brighton this season

Jahanbakhsh, 26, has started just three times from his nine appearances in the Premier League under Graham Potter and didn’t once complete a full 90 minutes.

He scored in his first start against Bournemouth last December and also netted a memorable overhead kick when he came off the bench in the following match against Chelsea.

It didn’t however result in a sustained run in the team for a player who joined Brighton for £17m in 2018 from AZ Alkmaar and is contracted until June 2023.

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His other two outings in the starting XI were during the 3-1 loss at Bournemouth and the 1-0 defeat at Everton.

He failed to make the Premier League matchday squad entirely on 19 separate occasions this season and his only run out since the restart was for the final 20 minutes during the 5-0 home loss against Man City.

Jahanbakhsh scored 34 goals from 79 appearances at his previous club AZ Alkmaar and reports from Holland suggest Ajax want to bring the Albion man back to the Eredivisie as a replacement for Chelsea-bound Hakim Ziyech.

In 2017/18 he was the leading goal scorer in the Dutch top-flight with 21 goals and finished joint third with 12 assists. Jahanbakhsh is the first Asian player ever to finish top goalscorer in a top level European league.

“He’ll be frustrated of course because he wants to play and I understand that,” said Albion head coach Potter. “He’s been great around the club, great with me, he gives his best all the time but he’s like any footballer – they want to play more.

“So it’s something we have to think about over the break and do what’s right for him and the club.

“But he’s a good player and he can help us. But again you can understand it from his perspective that he wants to play more regularly than he has.”

The contradictory comments of Brighton coach who barely managed to keep his team in the Premier League is a signal that Jahanbakhsh has no future in the club. However, the player has always insisted that he wants to remain and prove himself. Brighton wants to offload many high-cost players and Alireza Jahanbakhsh is one of them.

Bad news all over for Iran’s football.

If you are a die-hard fan of Iranian football, the bad news coming out of Iran is enough to send one into depression.

It seems that since Carlos Queiroz left the country to seek his fortunes in Latin America with the Colombian National team, hardly anything has gone right for Team Melli and Iran’s football in general. It all started with the recruitment of Marc Wilmots, a coach who has been sacked in his last two jobs with the latest appointment lasting only six months with the Ivory Coast. For the first time in decades, Team Melli suffered two consecutive defeats and that was in the FIFA World Cup qualifiers.

There have been a lot of secret talks and behind the scene negotiation to find a competent and true replacement for the legendary Queiroz. The odds on that were quite low for a lot of reasons. Not only the leading and the renowned coaches were already active coaching teams and thus not available, the second tiers looking for a job, did not put Iran’s Team Melli coaching on the top of their priority. Any potential foreign coach fancied the job but examined Queiroz’s experience in Iran or heard about the pandemonium in the football federation management with several layers of governance making decisions, would have thought twice before indulging in such an adventure.

Not surprisingly there were no quality takers for the job. Is this a Queiroz curse ?!

 Then came the real shock. While the masses were waiting for an Amir Ghalenoei or an Ali Daei to take over the helm, there comes an outsider and takes over the chair. To the utter shock of many, Dragan Skocic, a Croat who was coaching Sanat Naft was announced as Head Coach of Team Melli and assumed responsibility without much fanfare.

While the Croat enthusiastically started his mission by building rapport in preparing for the two upcoming matches, the coronavirus struck and chances of the fans seeing Skocic in action is delayed for at least 3 or 4 months.

Team Melli at least has a leader in Skocis, the football federations do not. The leadership struggles, political interference, influences, and the circus, continues in the head-less FFIRI. Mehdi Taj was forced to resign citing ill-health while the government is looking for an obedient regime stooge to install him as President of the Federation in the upcoming election!

FIFA got hold of these games and finally put its foot down hard on the authorities and the FFIRI itself declaring any elections under the current conditions and rules will not be recognized by FIFA unless the FFIRI amends its statute and rules in compliance with the international football law governance.

Away from Team Melli, Iranian clubs in the AFC Champions league displayed their worst performances and results ever with one solitary win in 8 matches. It was not only the results that were disappointing but the manner of defeats and the amateurish attitudes of the Iranian players with a lack of character and professionalism that hurt the most.

The so-called professional football league devoid of proper competition is full of drama, however, yet nothing like what Sepahan club did when they refused to turn up for the match against Persepolis in their home ground Naghsh Jehan stadium in Esfahan for. These things belong to the fifties and in Europe, such acts may result in relegation to lower divisions, but the FFIRI disciplinary committee like the rest of the federation is as incompetent as the rest of the federation. When it comes to applying strict discipline and punitive measures.

And then there are players who receive a cheque from one club to turn up playing for another club in a league match!

The initial enthusiasm of Iranian legionnaires in Europe all but evaporated with one player after another struggling to make the starting line-up. Even Sardar Azmoun was benched in Zenit last match with Jahanbakhsh remaining a solid benchwarmer in Brighton, Ezattolahi making a rare cameo appearance in a lowly Belgian league club and Taremi losing that initial goalscoring brilliant run of his in the Portuguese league.

Very little good news to report from Iran’s football. Perhaps it needs a real shake-up and severe jolt for it to recover again.

China 0 Iran 3: Azmoun punishes the Chinese defense.

Team Melli produced an impeccable performance in Abu Dhabi today to defeat China in the quarter finals of the AFC Asian Cup 2019. It was a real statement of intent by Queiroz’s men as Iran progressed into the last four with this commanding 3-0 quarter-final win over China PR.

Sardar Azmoun, who was the man of the match, scored one and set up another in the first half. While substitute striker, Karim Ansarifard sealed the win with late strike in the second half to set up a clash of giants against Japan in the semi-final next Monday.

Marcello Lippi has been tipped to bring his time as China coach to an end after this tournament and his side crashed out with a whimper, all three goals being scored following defensive lapses.

Azmoun celebrates

China failed to heed the warning after surviving an early scare when Azmoun’s header was cleared in front of goal by Zheng Zhi, the striker capitalizing after Feng Xiaoting let a long ball bounce to tee up Taremi for a simple finish –  his third goal in as many matches at Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium.

Taremi was denied a strong penalty appeal for a trip by Zhang Chengdong and missed a sitter from three yards, but Iran extended their lead in the 31st minute.

Azmoun profited from yet more sloppy defending by racing in behind and rounding Yan Junling, the goal allowed to stand following a brief VAR check for a potential foul on Liu Yiming.

Lippi has not been afraid to tinker with his formation during matches but his reversion to a midfield diamond did not have the desired effect.

Iran sealed the three-goal win late on through Ansarifard, who made the most of a gift from Shi Ke to slot home from Taremi’s through ball five minutes after replacing Azmoun.

While the result spells the end of the road for the Chinese, Iran remains in with a chance of claiming their first Asian Cup crown since 1976. Based on the dominant manner in which the Iranians claimed the victory against China, they might even be heading into that tie at the Hazza bin Zayed Stadium as favorites.

Immaculate display of attacking prowess

It did not take them long to assert their authority on Thursday and they threatened as early as the fourth minute, when Alireza Jahanbakhsh played a teasing first-time ball across the face of goal that was just too far for Azmoun to reach.

Two minutes later, China had an opening of their own with Hao Junmin breaking through down the right and playing in a cross that would have spelt a certain goal for Wu Lei, only for Ramin Rezaeian to halt the threat with an amazing recovery challenge.

Azmoun threatened again in the 10th minute when he was left unmarked at the back post at a corner and would have opened the scoring with a free header if not for Zheng Zhi being alert to the danger and clearing just before the line, but there was to be no denying Iran eight minutes after.

There looked to be no real danger when the Iranian defence played a long ball over the top but Feng Xiaoting’s hesitation saw him recklessly lose possession to Azmoun, who did well to unselfishly square a pass to hand Taremi with a simple finish.

The Al Gharafa star should have doubled his and his side’s tally in the 26th minute from a similar position when he was left with a sitter after being picked out by Hossein Kanaanizadegan’s flick-on from Ashkan Dejagah’s freekick, only to fire wide with the entire goal gaping.

By now, China’s 2006 FIFA World Cup-winning coach Marcello Lippi had seen enough and was motivated to make two substitutions even before the half-hour mark, but it still seemed only a matter of time before the Iranians’ supremacy reaped a second goal.

That duly arrived a minute after the half-hour mark and – this time – it was Liu Yiming who was the culprit despite being the favourite to make an interception, allowing Azmoun to nip in and win possession and casually take the ball past Yan before slotting into the unguarded net.

With a two-goal advantage now in their grasp, Team Melli were never in danger relinquishing control of the contest in the second half, and even had further chances to add to their tally which would have certainly but the result beyond doubt, although they were never really threatened by a lacklusture Chinese outfit.

And, in the first minute of injury-time, they finally added the gloss on an emphatic victory after profiting from another China error; Shi Ke’s poor touch handing possession straight to Taremi, who immediately threaded a ball through for substitute Ansarifard to latch onto and finish into the bottom corner.


IRAN: Alireza Beiranvand, Ramin Rezaeian, Morteza Pouraliganji, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Milad Mohammadi, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ashkan Dejagah (Rouzbeh Cheshmi 76’), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Saman Ghoddos 68’), Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun (Karim Ansarifard 86’).


CHINA PR: Yan Junling, Liu Yiming, Feng Xiaoting (Xiao Zhi 28’), Shi Ke, Zhang Chengdong, Hao Junmin, Zheng Zhi, Wu Xi (Zhao Xuri 25’), Liu Yang, Wu Lei (Yu Dabao 75’), Gao Lin.

Team Melli vs Oman: players rating and performance review.

It was a clinical victory for Team Melli against a stubborn Omani team which has no inferiority complex playing against higher ranked and bigger teams.  The overall rating of the team performance was higher than average bordering excellent. A smartly taken goal by Alireza Jahanbakhsh to score his first goal in the tournament and a well taken penalty kick by Ashkan Dejagah sealed the victory for Team Melli in a match they dominated but could not close early enough

We will discover the positives and negatives of the match versus Oman and see if we learned from the shortfalls.

Beiravand’s save was crucial and this covered one deficiency in Team Melli otherwise impeccable defense. The lack of pace in the central defenders in this case Majid Hosseini despite his ability and youthful energy, left him chasing after a faster and more agile forward , tacking him from behind , conceding a penalty and a yellow card for good measure. Such shortfall does not necessarily render Hosseini incapable of playing for Team Melli at international level; it means that the covering work and the defensive tactics should cater for such instances. That is the work of a defensive coordinator or coach. Perhaps by experience, Hosseini would improve and does not indulge in tackles and fouls that risk him being sent off.

Sardar Azmoun is by far is the best forward in Team Melli. His physique, mental strength, skills and heading ability makes Azmoun an excellent asset for any team. He is easily the gem in the crown of Iran, but Sardar has shown his negative side too in Oman game by wasting easy scoring chances.

While Azmoun has the skills and ability to score from the most awkward of positions, he wasted at least 3 glorious ones on Sunday. One chance that only required mildest of shoot, another one which only required accuracy and a header that he would normally slot as easy as ABC. Against Oman he failed to convert any one of them. It was a battle between him and Taremi on how many chances they can squander.

Taremi , perhaps not as resourceful or skillful as Azmoun, had his bad day too. The golden miss was that ball that he could have either passed to Azmoun but instead he opted to lob. It was not a clever decision and the ball ended wide and nowhere near the target.

At the end, it really did not matter as Azmoun & Taremi colleagues have done the job already, but scoring chances will be far and few in matches against the stronger oppositions such as Japan and South Korea. If they are not taken, then it could possibly mean the end of a dream.

Very difficult to pinpoint why the Team Melli attacking pair missed so many chances. It could be anything of nerves, haste, overconfidence, casualness or negligence, whatever it is; it needs to be sorted out. Perhaps it is all in the mind. These two players can play a major role in Team Melli’s quest for the lifting of the title. They need to be sorted out by someone in the coaching staff.


A special mention has to be given to two distinct players. Alireza Beiranvand with that excellent penalty save as early as the first minutes of the game and the grand performance of Ashkan Dejagah who was like the dynamo of the team playing on of his best matches in Team Melli Jersey.

The significance of Beirnavand cannot be over emphasized for many reasons. Falling behind so early in a match not only has a negative psychological effect on the conceding team, while it hypes the other, against Teams like Oman it means parking the bus.

Thankfully, we did not have to experience that agony the moment Beiravand saved Ahmen Kanoo’s penalty.

About the performance of Ashkan Dejagah. The Tractorsazi’s midfielder hardly put a foot wrong, orchestrating the midfield, cleverly distributing the ball,  defending deep , challenging for the ball when required and overall being a good motivator , leader  and visionary. He was tireless and gave a few younger players a lesson in endurance too.

  • Alireza Beiranvand (9): The single player who made difference for his early save. However, he also made a number of excellent stops. His long throws,, are becoming a lethal weapon. Proved beyond any shadow of doubt, that he is the best goalkeepers in Asia, one one of the best in the world.
  • Milad Mohammadi (7.5):  Although his turbo runs on the flanks was not much in evidence today, he was convincing in defense and very little passed him. .
  • Majid Hosseini (4): Single handedly could have cost the team the game. Poor marking and a silly foul resulted in a penalty on the first attack by Oman. Later on he was quite lucky not to be sent off for another bookable offense. A day to forget for the young defender.
  •  Morteza Pouraliganji (8): Although did not face a strong offensive line, he did his job perfectly and dealt with the opposition attackers with ease.
  • Ramin Rezaeian (6): He is still rusty at times and lack of competitive match practice is evident in his game. However, he contributed well towards both attack and defense.
  • Mahdi Taremi (5.5): Wasteful and disappointing for the player who started this campaign so well. He has not scored since netting two against Yemen and needs a confidence booster match against China to keep him going. His most important contribution was winning the penalty which Ashkan Dejagah converted.
  • Omid Ebrahimi (7.5): The always reliable defensive midfield who never fails to impress and always delivers. He had yet another good game and alongside Dejagah, controlled the midfield not allowing the Omanis any chances to pressurize the Iranian defense.
  • Ashkan Dejagah (9): An excellent performance worthy of an Oscar. Has been Iran’s one of the best Team Melli players throughout the tournament. Did not put a foot wrong and ensured superiority in the middle of the park while feeding the flanks for offensive moves. Scored the team’s second goal, netting a crucial penalty in the 41st minute.
  • Alireza Jahanbaksh (7.5): Still not operating on all cylinders after the recovery from injury, however, Queiroz trusted him to start for the second match running, and he delivered. Troubled the opposition time and again and finally scored Team Melli’s first goals after a smart piece of play.
  • Vahid Amiri (7): Had a good game playing just behind the attacker. Always looked to play his teammates in behind the defense.
  • Sardar Azmoun (7): Very strong performance marred by awful wastefulness. He could have easily scored a hat trick. Shot wide from close range when it seemed easier to score than miss. However, the rest of his game, tackling and winning the ball was immaculate.


  1. Saman Ghoddos (6): Came on just before the 80th-minute mark and looked lively during the time he was on the pitch.
  2. Roozbeh Cheshmi (6): Replaced goal-scorer Alireza Jahanbaksh but couldn’t’ replicate his attacking input. However, he had a decent time on the pitch.
  3. Masoud Shojaei (N/A): Came on in the final few minutes as Iran looked to see out the match.