Tag: Marcello Lippi

Queiroz and the European style in Asia.

It is not a solid rule that a coach with a strong curriculum vitae and great experience can succeed, make a difference, lead a tactical revolution anywhere in the world, and with any footballing entity he trains.

Alberto Zaccheroni has been strongly established in Asia, where he lifted the AFC Asian Cup title with Japan, and had a reasonable time with UAE, not to mention that he was one of the biggest names in football world coaching beforehand. Yet , he failed to repeat the same success in UAE.

It is also not possible to think that moderately famous coaches with modest CVs and achievement have no keys to success. There simply no specific rule on that.

Zlatko Dalic for example, was not a great coach before coming over to train in the Persian Gulf,  training at club levels and not really to any great success, yet with Croatia , this man achieved a remarkable success.

The simple reality is that , many factors in football has to combine to produce success and lift trophies. Before coaching in Asia Marcello Lippi, Sven-Goran Eriksson, Alberto Zaccheroni and Carlos Queiroz, were household names, but that is no guarantee for winning titles.

The other reality is that the experience of most of the big names coaches is not so good in Asia, especially the European mindsets that have not been able to prove themselves, or have not succeeded in imposing their style on Asian footballers.

The nature of football in Asia and Europe is different in many aspects and that is the major reason for the lack of success of European coaching celebrities. It may be associated with physical weakness, mindsets, discipline, mental abilities and failure to absorb the European tactics, as hinted by veteran Italian Lippi when he talked about the players of China.

The current AFC Asian Cup  2019 wrote the final scenario in the march of Marcello Lippi, Goran Erikson and Carlos Queiroz, while continuing to swing Paolo Pinto with South Korea in spite of the state of anger sweeping the Korean fans  after their exit from the tournament and the loss of the dream they have been looking for 85 Years.

It is interesting to study Queiroz’s case

Carlos Queiroz has been with Team Melli for 8 years. More than any coach in the history of Iran National Team. The man coached Real Madrid, Portugal, UAE and South Africa with two stint as assistant coach to Sir Alex Ferguson in Manchester United. There is no denying his record of excellence. However, if one follows Queiroz’s career, a major lacking is noted in his CV. Queiroz is no title winner and has rarely succeeded in lifting trophies. Regrettably, he has no championship pedigree.

Queiroz succeeded in leading Iran to the 2014 and 2018 World Cups, and that was never achieved before him, it is a huge achievement but the big prize has always been the AFC Asian Cup.

It was a sad end for Queiroz tenure with Team Melli when they he was comprehensively beaten by Japan in the semi-final. Team Melli which has not conceded a single goal from the start of the competition, collapsed and lost by 3 goals. Queiroz , true to his character, blamed the momentary lapse of concentration of his players leading to the first goal for that defeat. The truth is much more complex. It was his failure to change the style of play and his poor reading of the Japanese tactics, that lead to this defeat. But the Portuguese man is adept in deflecting blame on something or somebody.

Ironically, he never talked about winning the title. Perhaps Queiroz never believed in his team’s ability and skill to lay a claim for the title. He did not even consider Iran Team good enough for the semifinal at the beginning naming Korea Japan Australia and China as the real contenders. Surely he knew his players much better than we do and hence he never intimidated the Championship.

His personal trait was quite suspect.

Carlos Queiroz was a man with so many persons created in one. By far the most contentious of Team Melli coaches. Frequently controversial, Creator of many soaps, divisive personality, and a person who will never shy from belittling or  insulting his opponents (the Donald Trump side of him). The man always depicted himself as the one that has the monopoly of knowledge and intelligence when it comes to football and Team Melli in particular (the Jose Mourinho side).

He could also be compassionate, caring and kind when he wanted to be.

The Portuguese, known for his controversial expressions and words, quoted the famous lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s song “The moment has come.”  Before he set course to what looks like a Colombian adventure.

Some will miss him, some are glad to see the back of him. In any case, credit must be given to the man for making a difference in Team Melli. It is doubtful that his legacy will survive, if a local coach is appointed to replace him.  A coach in the class of Queiroz or better might achieve the big success with this generation of Iranian footballers and win something. Queiroz has changed or at least tried to improve many aspects of the organization of Team Melli, his players mentality, discipline, physical training regime among many other positives of his career.

Team Melli vs China: players rating and performance review.

It was yet , another majestic display by Team Melli under the guidance of Carlos Queiroz. against China. Team Melli has not only enhanced its reputation as a team that can play modern and beautiful football, it also laid a solid claim and are the Chief contender for the title of AFC Asian Cup 2019.

Yet, neither Queiroz nor any of his players are talking beyond the next match. It is a wise and measured move but it does not mask the fact that from what we have seen in the last two weeks, Iran is the best team that has dominated its opposition and won matches deservedly on merit and perhaps with a class above the rest.

China was well beaten by Team Melli and much credits should go for one player, Sardar Azmoun. The Ruben Kazan forward was on a mission and he succeeded by mixture of strength, skill and determination. The Chinese defense, in truth, had a big role in the defeat of their team with some poor defending and suspect decision making.

China, however, was not a minnow team and did not lack the skills required at such level of football. They are guided by one of the world best and famous coaches in Marcello Lippi. A world Cup winner and a coach who has a trail of trophies behind him. Queiroz, on the other hand, out foxed the master in every department and his team came out a clear winner.

Queiroz has masterfully rotated the team for this tournament. He is the envy of the rest of the teams in UAE because he is spoiled for choices in every department. The absence of Vahid Amiri was not even felt. Hopefully , the same will be true against Japan when Mehdi Taremi will be missing due to his suspension.

Team Melli dominated the center and at times defended deep. their teamwork was a delight to watch. On my occasions, the series of short and fast passes interchanged between the players intimidated the Chinese who were chasing shadows. Despite the fact that most of the goals came either from long balls or route one followed by a Chinese defense blunder, that doe not hide the fact that Iran was the better team in all departments.

To be able to take advantage of the opposition mistakes , you need the quality player to do that. Team Melli had the right quality to punish mistakes by opposition defenders.

If there were some negative points, they were the same ones that were mentioned in other matches too and that is the wastefulness of the forwards, particularly Mehdi Taremi. It is very difficult to criticize a player who scored one goal and provided an assist for another, but Taremi was really appalling when he missed an open goal from a few meters after the ball was given to him on a plate by a perfect header from Kanani-Zadegan. It was a shocking miss!

Overall, it was an emphatic win in the quarter final of the AFC Asian Cup. Now……Bring on Japan.


  • Alireza Beiranvand (7.5): Hardly tested but when required he did his job perfectly.
  • Milad Mohammadi (7.5):  Routine day, defensive work was excellent, however, limited venturing forward to neutralize possible opposition fast breaks.
  • Morteza Pouraliganji (8): Another solid performance. His strong tackling and marking left very little space for the Chinese forwards.
  • Ramin Rezaeian (6.5): Improving with every match despite the fact that Queiroz wise squad rotation is not giving Rezaeian regular starting place.
  • Hossein Kanani-Zadegan (7.5): Only his second start of the tournament, however, he was as good as any of the regular players. When called upon for offensive work on corners, he nearly assisted in a goal but for Taremi’s profligate finishing from close range.
  • Omid Ebrahimi (7.5): Another solid exhibition of sheer power and tenacity. His defensive duties were executed perfectly. Strong and reliable as a holding midfileder. Tireless runner with great stamina.
  • Ashkan Dejagah (8): Continued where he left off. His vision, ability to find players on flanks and timely dribbling made a big impact on the game. Although he did not assist in the goals, his domination of the center of the park was excellent.  
  • Alireza Jahanbaksh (7.5): Continues his recovery and put up a good shift against China. Substituted in the second half.
  • Ehsan Hajsafy (7): Had a quiet game in the midfield zone. Nearly scored from a long range shot from outside the box, but the Chinese keeper saved it with full stretch.
  • Mahdi Taremi (7.5): Scored a goal and provided an assist for the third, however, he is still clumsy and wasteful. A player in his class should not miss an open goal, and that reckless challenge on a Chinese player cost him a yellow card and a suspension. Many rough edges to his game.
  • Sardar Azmoun (10): The best of the lot. A really great performance by Sardar capped with an assist and a goal. He was on turbo mode today running at the Chinese defense and creating havoc. He could have score more goals too.



  1. Saman Ghoddos (7): Proving his quality every time he comes on. He does need to have more playing time to reach the peak of his performance and improve his teamwork.
  2. Roozbeh Cheshmi (7): Had a decent game and stuck to the script.
  3. Karim Ansarifard (8): In his short spell on the field, he scored a beautiful goal which proves that he can be a clinical finisher. He needs to deliver more frequently to dislodge Taremi.


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.

Lippi ” China need ‘more focus’ ahead of Iran Asian Cup quarter-final clash”

Marcello Lippi said China need to learn how to focus for an entire game ahead of their crunch Asian Cup quarter-final with Iran, the biggest – and possibly last – game of his tenure.

The Italian World Cup-winning coach hailed his players after they overcame Thailand 2-1 to reach the last-eight, saying they had proved they were among the best in Asia.

But Lippi, 70, said China still had a habit of drifting in and out of games after another Jekyll-and-Hyde performance in which they trailed 1-0 midway through the second half.

“Chinese players have to improve psychologically,” said Lippi, who is expected to leave China after the Asian Cup following two and a half years at the helm.

“Sometimes they need to be much more focused and concentrated and pay more attention during the game. It’s a psychological thing. It’s very important to have the same intensity, the same determination from the beginning of the game.”

China were under the cosh against Thailand on Sunday until Lippi switched his formation at half-time, turning the tables as they swamped the Thais for much of the second period.

But Iran, Asia’s top-ranked team, will provide a much stiffer test and the expectation is that after Thursday’s game in Abu Dhabi, China will be packing their bags.

Lippi already appeared to be defending his record when he volunteered statistics that in his 10 competitive matches, China have won six and lost only two, to Iran and South Korea.

“That means I have to be very proud of my players,” he said, adding: “I’m very satisfied because this team is getting great results and we’re in the quarter-finals, which means we’re one of the top eight Asian teams.”

Reaching the quarters matches China’s performance of 2015, when the Asian Cup had only 16 teams rather than 24. China have never won the trophy in 11 previous attempts.

However, Lippi also sounded the alarm for future Chinese teams after fielding an ageing line-up including four starters in their thirties, and only one younger than 26.

Captain Zheng Zhi, widely expected to quit the national set-up after the Asian Cup, remains a vital cog at 38, while goal-scorers Xiao Zhi and Gao Lin are 33 and 32 respectively.

“I can say this is a problem for the future of the Chinese team,” Lippi said. “Because if the best players are always (in their thirties) it means that right behind them there aren’t any young players coming up.”

Iran seek qualification for world Cup 2018

  • Iran will book qualification for Russia 2018 with a home victory
  • Japan can establish a three-point lead in Group B if they prevail 
  • Both Thailand and Iraq will play for nothing but pride

Asia’s qualifing for the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ is approaching its first watershed moment with Iran in sight of reaching the global finals. A victory at home against third-placed Uzbekistan will be enough to send Carlos Queiroz’s Team Melli through to join qualified Brazil and hosts Russia at next year’s extravaganza. Korea Republic, meanwhile, travel to Qatar targeting three points with their sights fixed at a potential second qualifying spot from Group A.

In Group B, Japan arrive at Tehran to take Iraq knowing that an away victory will move them three points clear of arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Australia, both of whom are level on points. Trailing the giant trio by seven points, United Arab Emirates face a must-win scenario if they are to maintain their slim hopes of a play-off place. Join FIFA.com as we take a closer look at the upcoming action across Asia.

The match
Iran-Uzbekistan, Azadi Stadium, Tehran, 21:15 local time

The importance of the match needs no explanation for the hosts, who can progress to Russia 2018 with three points. Carlos Queiroz’s side will look to both their home support and dominant head-to-head record against the visitors which has seen them win five of the seven past meetings. The Uzbeks can take heart from their only victory against Iran, which was a solitary-goal away victory at Tehran at the same stage on the road to Brazil 2014. Samvel Babayan’s side are motivated by the potential of leapfrogging the Taeguk Warriors into the section’s second place with a victory.

Both sides enter the match in winning form. Uzbekistan defeated Thailand by 2-0 in a recent friendly while Iran beat Montenegro by the same scoreline with hotshot forward Sardar Azmoun grabbing a brace. Uzbekistan will count on veteran Alexander Geynrikh to continue his super-sub role while in-form Odil Ahmedov remains the man skippering the side.

The other attractions
Also in Group A, Korea Republic arrive in Doha hoping to prolong their undefeated qualifying record against hosts Qatar, having won three and drawn one from the past four meetings. Coach Uli Stielike has called back former AFC Player of the Year Lee Keunho to enhance their potency up front and the visitors will hope to pick the brain of midfielder Nam Taehee for some insider information, who recently earned the Qatar FA Player of the Year award for helping Lekhwiya to their fifth Qatari league title.

Syria entertain China PR in Malaysia aiming to cut the gap to Uzbekistan. The West Asian side will be keen to replicate their 1-0 win against the Chinese in the return game in October. However, they must make do without top striker Omar Kharbin who is ruled out through injury. The visitors, under Marcello Lippi, enter the game with their sights firmly fixed at three points, but their growing injury list sees both striker Yu Dabao and captain Zheng Zhi absent.

Iran’s Reza Ghoochannejhad (R) celebrates with teammate Soroush Rafiei after scoring a goal against UAE during their Asian Cup Group C soccer match at the Brisbane Stadium in Brisbane January 19, 2015. REUTERS/Edgar Su (AUSTRALIA – Tags: SOCCER SPORT)

Things in Group B look even tighter after Australia edged Saudi Arabia 3-2 in Adelaide on Thursday. The result confirmed the elimination of Iraq and moved the Socceroos level with both Japan and Saudi Arabia on points. The competition may become harder with three games left but Japan, leading on goal difference, are all too aware that they can establish a three-point cushion at the summit with a victory against Iraq. 

Elsewhere, UAE arrive in Bangkok knowing they must win to realistically keep their hopes of reaching Russia alive. The visitors have boasted a dominant head-to-head record with four wins out of five, including prevailing 3-1 at home in the first-leg meeting. An away victory may look within the UAE’s grasp but they will underestimate the Thais at their peril, considering they conceded three unanswered goals in the same Rajamangala Stadium on the road to Germany 2006.

Did you know?
Iraq and Thailand, both from Group B, are already eliminated with three matches left.

What they said
“We lead our group, we have no defeats and we conceded no goals. However, we are not yet in the place we want. Our game is not over yet. If we want to succeed, there is one price to pay. Victories never come cheap. In this moment, only full sacrifice will take Team Melli to the place we all dream of,” Carlos Queiroz, Iran head coach.

Matchday 8 fixtures
12 and 13 June

Group A:
Qatar-Korea Republic
Syria-China PR

Group B:
Australia 3-2 Saudi Arabia (8 June)
Thailand-United Arab Emirates

Iran 1-0 China : Another firm step towards the World Cup 2018

Team Melli defeated China 1-0 in the seventh round of the FIFA World Cup 2018 Asian zone qualifiers to cement its lead on group A. Iran now leads the group with 17 points , four ahead of closest rival Korea Republic with 3 rounds to go.

The match was played in front of capacity crowd estimated to be over 110,000 fans played early in the afternoon, The doors of the stadium had to be closed early as the fans were still flocking in with the stadium already full.

China which defeated Korea in the last round , was hoping to repeat the same against Iran to have any chance of reaching the World Cup for only its second time in history. A large number of Chinese fans all wearing red , were in Azadi;s special guests section cheering their team. Marcello Lippi has successfully led the Chinese in the last two matches.

Taremi celebrates

The first half :

Queiroz made 3 changes in the line up from the Qatar match including Ghoochannejad replacing Azmoun in forward line, while Shojae replaced Hajsafy. TM did not waste much time going forward as Ghoochannejad shot powerfully in the 6th minute for the Chinese keeper Zeng Cheng to parry over the bar for corner.

Following a series of slick passing moves in the 20th minute, Jahanbakhsh fired a shot that just shaved the bar

Next serious threat on Chinese goal was on minute 35 where Taremi’s shot was saved by the outstretched legs of Zeng Cheng.

Team Melli continued its assault on China’s goal and should have scored a minute later after another set of passes following quick interchange of positions. Masoud Shojaei, the captain of the team, sent a measured ball to the fast advancing Milad Mohammadi on the left flank. The Grozny player controlled the ball nicely, passed his marker and was one on one with Zeng Cheng. However, with the angle closing and becoming acute , Mohammadi shot was met by the excellent Chinese custodian, and sent to the corner.

Reza Ghoochannejad vs China WCQ 2018

5 minutes later , another marvelous passing game, this time from the right resulted in Ghafoori sending an inch perfect pass to Shojaei. The Captain shot cleanly but once again Zeng Cheng saved China’s blushes. The ensuing corner saw Taremi’s scissor kick marginally missing target.

The first half ended goal-less.

It only took 30 seconds in the second half for Iran to take the lead. After a series of shamble clearances by the Chinese defense, Taremi found the ball at his feet inside the six yards box. His halfhearted lefty shot beat the wrong footed  Zeng Cheng and finally passed the goal line.

It was much deserved and long waited goal for Team Melli.

China on the other hand, showed very little initiative and ambition. Only late in the second half that the Chinese really pressed hard to score an equalizer , which incidentally would not have made a big difference in their chances.

Iran now awaits the crucial encounter at Azadi with Uzbekistan. A win, will guarantee Iran early qualification.

A new face in Team Melli’s final prectise session.

Team Melli conducted its last practise session before the China game at Sanat Naft research institute field in Tehran today morning. The session was attended by all the 23 players of the squad and no injuries were reported among the players. There was an initial fear that Alireza Jahanbakhsk who received a knock against Qatar, might be absent for this match, however, Jahanbakhsh practised with the squad and there is no sign of any problem.

The interesting event was the appearance of a new face in the coaching staff. A Portuguese coach named Alexander López , turned up quietly and started coaching the three goalkeepers, Alireza Biranvand , Mazaheri and Akhbari. Of course, Team Melli management from Saket to the PR officer maintained absolute silent about the sudden disappearance of the American Goal Keeping coach Dan Gaspar who has accompanied  Queiroz for a long time and was the most popular of all the coaches amongst the players and the administrators. It is believe that he has been sacked like Peyrovani, Nekounam & Aghajanian.

What is known of these changes, is that Queiroz by his own wisdom, suddenly decides that these staff are of no use to his plans and fires them. Dan Gasper was the only non-Iranian  in the list. Since there has been no official announcement,  or communication by the FFIRI , that is the strongest of the many speculations.

Lack of transparency, covert like practices, extreme self-centeredness has marred Team Melli for many years now. In such circumstances, rumors and speculation play a major role and as such , is detrimental for the squad.

In another development, The Italian Marcello Lippi , China’s national team head coach , failed to appear for the post-match press conference. The Chinese failed to provide a justification for his absence which is mandatory practice by the FIFA ruling, hence China will be fined. Not that such a fine will rattle the finances of the Mega-rich Chinese.


Mission China; Team Melli needs all the 3 points in Azadi.

Iran’s match against China on Tuesday will be a real test for the newish look Team Melli after their fine display against Qatar in Doha which ended in a 1-0 win scored by Mehdi Taremi. In retrospect, it was not an impossible task in Doha and the win was achieved with certain level of comfort unlike the match in Azadi at the beginning of the competition.

Azmoun & Taremi celebrating

Mehdi Taremi was one of 3 up front strikers in what look a sweet adventure by Carlos Queiroz. Team Melli has reached this status, undefeated, top of the table and not conceding a single goal in the competition yet, as the result of Queiroz philosophy of tight & solid defense. A solid back , be it three or four , has served Queiroz well and his omission of Seyed Jalal Hosseini , the most expected and senior player in the squad , but who is also performing quite awfully for his club, proved how much importance Queiroz puts on reliable, steadfast and consistent defenders. Pouraliganji replaced Hosseini at the heart of the defence and he hardly put a foot wrong. It was a clever move by Queiroz who must have considered Pouraliganji’s familiarity with the Qatar players as an added advantage on top of his excellent form.

Queiroz was rewarded for it.

The midfield was another spot of worry since the regulars were all missing. Ashkan Dejagah & Ando Teymourian have not even made the list, while the squad was lacking strength in depth in the defensive midfield area.

However, Saeid Ezatollahie , a young an upcoming player, Ehsan Hajsafy, already a veteran at 27 years only and Ali Reza Jahanbakhsh created a solid trio in the center of the field and excelled in both their offensive and defensive duties. The midfield, maintaining a pace of the match that suited Team Melli tactics, creating lots of opportunities for the forwards, helping out in defense, and  finally controlling the match with time ticking away, was a major factor in this victory.

In the forward line, Carlos Queiroz is spoiled for choices and every single one of them in addition to the benched Reza Ghoochannejad had excellent season with their respective clubs. The dilemma with Queiroz was which one to pick. Granted, the forwards missed many chances to kill the game as early as the 60th minute, but their performance and contribution to backing the midfield during oppositions attacks, was a delight to watch.

Carlos Queiroz

Now about the goalkeeper. Team Melli have not been successful with keepers after the era of the AhmedReza Abedzadeh. Young Biranvand has certainly some potential, but there are some mentality and behavior issues with this keeper. His petulant acts is a source of concern, in the match against Qatar, it earned him a yellow card, but more serious than these juvenile roleplays , is his tendency to get his choices wrong while jumping for crosses or when he needs to save a shot.  He needs a lot of growing up and some real good coaching on his timing and when to use his fists rather than the palm of the hands.

  Overall , it was an excellent performance by Team Melli.

China seems to experiencing a revival of their own as their narrow but valuable win against their perennial rivals South Korea proved. will be a good test for Team Melli. Last time round in China, the home team frustrated Team Melli and closed the roads to their goalkeeper very well. The style of play has improved under Marcello Lippi and the Chinese seem to play a better game, more confidence and with some superb passing moves. The style is more of ground passing and less dependence on aerials. The Chinese forwards are perhaps not so effective in finishing and there are a few question marks about their defense marking, but the team looks much more solid and capable of beating any opposition.

The predication for this encounter is difficult, suffice to say it will be tight and difficult affair.

Azadi passionate crowd will have a major role to play. The vociferous and enthusiastic support will assist in gaining all the three more points of the match. This might not translate in early celebrations for Team Melli as that fate will be delayed until this summer. Direct qualification will only be known after the game with Uzbekistan on 12th June, if that.