Tag: Nigeria

Few hours before the World Cup 2018 Draw

Team Melli is only hours away from knowing its fate in the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 draw. Iran is in Pot3 with a potential of a tough draw. This is the first time that Team Melli has qualified for the FIFA World cup for a second successive time. This feat was achieved by the Carlos Queiroz and for that, the Portuguese will be forever remembered.

Team Melli was the first Asian side to qualify for this tournament and did so with an impressive 12 consecutive clean sheets. However, the downsize of this record is that Team Melli is hardly exemplary at the front with only an average of 1 goals scored per game.

Queiroz is well known for his philosophy of solid defense and closing all the flanks. His facet of tactics is “reactive football” with a deep-lying defense and quick counterattacks. Queiroz changed the game plan in recent friendlies against Russia, Panama and Venezuela, where Team Melli played with a differently, pressing higher up the pitch and adopting a more aggressive approach.

Carlos Queiroz Plans

Carlos Queiroz, despite a temper and petulance that has caused many outwardly senseless controversies in recent years, is very popular in Iran because of the results and performances. The Portuguese is the football equivalent to Donald Trump who picks up fights, with anyone that crosses his line be it a charity worker, footballer, journalist or a club coach. Despite his irritable and vindictive character, most critics believe that he has made a difference in Iran’s football, at least at National Team level by giving Team Melli real character and building a solid group of player. For that, he is much more accomplished in his job that the American President.

What he lacks in finesse and character, Queiroz certainly makes up in coaching skills, passion and man management. Iranian players are not very well versed in discipline or professionalism, but under Queiroz some of Team Melli players with attitudes or transgressions, soon found themselves out of the squad in a flash. The rest heard the message well and learned the lesson.  Queiroz, not much of an aficionado of the domestic league, has always preferred Europe-based players, as this gives him some assertion of technical discipline that the domestic leagues sorely lack.

Luckily, there are a large number of players in the current squad that play in Europe, including 3 who actually earn their living in Russia; Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan) , Saeid Ezatolahei ( FC Amkar Perm on loan from FC Rostov) and Milad Mohammadi ( Akhmat Grozny)

 Regardless to which teams will be in Iran’s group, Germany, Spain and Nigeria being about the toughest or an easier ride on paper of Russia, Croatia and Panama, Team Melli will be a tough nut to crack.

The fans, however, would wish to see some more courage by Queiroz and less of the “Park the Bus” approach.

Iran Beach Soccer qualifies for 1//4 finals

  • Iran finish second in Group B, Nigeria are eliminated
  • Mohammad Ahmadzadeh and Mohammad Mokhtari each score twice for the Asian champions
  • Iran will face Group A winners Switzerland in the quarter-finals on 4 May

Iran defeated Nigeria 2-1 on penalties after a thrilling 4-4 draw after extra time to claim the runners-up spot in Group B and reach the quarter-finals of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017.

In what was an intriguing back-and-forth battle between two sides looking to make the last eight, Mohammad Ahmadzadeh and Mohammad Mokhtari each scored a pair of goals for the Asian champions.

To their credit, Nigeria gave an excellent account of themselves, with Victor Tale, Emmanuel Ohwoferia, Godspower Igudia, and Bartholomew Ibenegbu getting on the scoresheet.

After regulation and extra time could not settle matters, it was Iran that held their nerve in the penalty shoot-out to finish second in the group and set up a quarter-final clash with Switzerland on 4 May.

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.”

Susic and Queiroz leave posts


Susic and Queiroz leave posts
© Getty Images

Bosnia and Herzegovina are set to begin a new era under a new coach after their FIFA World Cup™ campaign ended on Wednesday, while Iran will also begin their search for Carlos Queiroz’s replacement after not renewing his contract.

Coach of the Balkan team, Safet Susic, has announced he will step down now that the group stage has concluded. Bosnia and Herzegovina, without a chance of progressing before Wednesday’s game against Iran, won 3-1 at Salvador’s Arena Fonte Nova.

“This was my last game at the World Cup,” Susic said to Brazilian newspaper Lancenet. “Unfortunately there will not be another one. Sometimes it is a nice feeling to be free of obligations. I can decide my own fate and this is my answer.”

Susic, who played for Yugoslavia in the 1982 and 1990 World Cups, came under fire for his defensive-minded tactics in losses to Argentina and Nigeria in Group F.

Sometimes it is a nice feeling to be free of obligations. I can decide my own fate and this is my answer.

Safet Susic, outgoing Bosnia and Herzegovina coach

“The win against Iran is scant consolation,” the 59-year-old said. “But I congratulate my players for a display of commitment and passion against a team needing a win to keep alive their hopes of progressing.

Manchester City’s Edin Dzeko scored the Bosnians’ first goal against Iran, and said: “We could have done a better job in the World Cup.”

Despite being Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first appearance at a World Cup finals, much was expected of Susic’s side. The team scored 30 goals and conceded just six to finish top ahead of Greece in their qualifying campaign.

“I feel sorry for those we have disappointed,” Susic said. “We should have done better by the quality of our players but now is the time for this team to look forward to [UEFA] Euro 2016 qualifiers. We lacked experience and cool heads at crucial moments in the opening two games but I cannot complain about effort. That’s just football.”

It will not be much consolation but Susic and his team won the admiration of outgoing Iran coach Queiroz: “Congratulations to Bosnia,” he said. “With all due respect to Nigeria and Argentina, the best team in the group (Bosnia) didn’t qualify. They have great players and they played at another level to us. My players went to their physical and mental limits against Bosnia, but it wasn’t possible to get the result.”

Iran had held Nigeria to a goalless draw in their opening before falling 1-0 to Argentina. They still had a chance to progress to the Round of 16 heading into Wednesday’s match but they came up well short in their final game.

Queiroz, meanwhile, will seek a fresh challenge after coaching Iran for three years. “I’ve shown my commitment to this project, but I haven’t received any new contract offer,” the former Manchester United assistant coach said. “It’s been an honour for me to work for Iran, I’ve fallen in love with the country.

“But you can’t have a marriage when only one side wants to commit. I waited for them to make an offer, but I haven’t received anything, so I’ve come here to say ‘thank you’ to those who gave me the opportunity to do this job. I will always have Iranian football, my players and the fans in my heart.”

World Cup 2014 Group’F’: How can the teams qualify?

Ahead of the final round of fixtures in Group F, we look at the various permutations.

Argentina – Qualified

Lionel Messi’s late goal over Iran last week booked a place for the Argentinians in the last 16.  A draw over second place Nigeria will see them top Group F.

Nigeria – Must draw with Argentina

A draw between Nigeria and Argentina will work well for both teams as the South Americans will win the group with the Africans guaranteeing their place in the knock-out stages. A win for Nigeria over Argentina will see them top Group F, sending Argentina into second place.

Iran – Need to beat Bosnia-Hercegovina and require Argentine win over Algeria, with a superior goal difference

After losing to Argentina in the cruellest fashion last week, the Iranians now rely on them to triumph over Algeria whilst making sure they beat Bosnia-Herzegovina in the process. Even then, Iran will need a superior goal difference to advance.

 Bosnia-Herzegovina – Out

With two losses from two games, Bosnia-Herzegovina are guaranteed to be spectators following the conclusion of the group matches.

Dejagah: Iran will be going for goals

Dejagah: Iran will be going for goals
© Getty Images

There are two sides to any successful team and, for 181 minutes at Brazil 2014, Iran have been near-flawless in one. Certainly, few defences at this FIFA World Cup™ have been as disciplined or well-drilled as Carlos Queiroz’s, and it took a goal out of nothing – a moment of pure Lionel Messi inspiration – for all their diligence to be undone.

That flash of Messi magic denied the Iranians a second successive clean sheet, and according to Ashkan Dejagah, there is an inevitability to their campaign having been built on such foundations. As he told FIFA.com: ” We don’t have players like Messi, [Sergio] Aguero and [Angel] Di Maria, so we need to focus on making ourselves as well-organised as possible The shape of the team, making sure we’re tough to get through defensively, is something that has been very important for the coach in the build-up to this tournament.

“He’s spent a lot of time on the training field making sure that we have that we’re compact and ready to take on the best teams in the world. Neither Nigeria nor Argentina had many chances against us and, realistically, that’s the only way we can go about things. If we played a really open game against players like Messi, they would have killed us.”

He’s spent a lot of time on the training field making sure that we have that we’re compact and ready to take on the best teams in the world.

Iran’s Ashkan Dejagah on coach Carlos Queiroz

Opening up and going on the offensive has, though – thanks to Argentina’s No. 10 – gone from being a dangerous option to being Iran’s only option. Anything but victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina will, after all, dash any lingering hopes of reaching the last 16, which makes finding a way to goal the key challenge.

“The fact we’ve not scored yet is something we need to put right,” acknowledged Dejagah. “I think we were really unlucky against Argentina though. We had a lot of chances and it was one of those games where everyone in the team did their job and played well. It’s hard when you lose a game like that, although you have to stand back and give credit to Messi. It’s times like those, when games are really tight, that the great players show how important they are. But we can still take positives and be proud of our performance.

“I actually thought I’d scored in the game against Argentina – that header I had, I thought it was in for sure. But again, you have to applaud their keeper for a really fantastic save. I think a goal will come for us though. We definitely have players who can score and I think we were more dangerous in our second game compared to our first.

“Hopefully this third match will bring another step up. We’ll definitely be going for goals and we still have a chance to go through, I’m sure of that. What we need to do is take the good things we’ve done so far, improve a little bit in other areas and give everything to beat Bosnia. If we do that – and I think it’s a game we can win – we can still qualify.”

Having come up against most of his upcoming opponents either in the Bundesliga or the English Premier League, Dejagah knows better than most that the debutants boast plenty of individual talent. However, the 27-year-old Fulham midfielder – who represented Germany at youth level before declaring for Iran – is relishing his first experience of the World Cup, and has no desire to join the Bosnians in heading for home.

He said: “Being at this World Cup has the highlight of my career, for sure. Every footballer wants to play at this tournament and, here in Brazil, with the atmosphere, it’s even more special. I’m really enjoying it. And, believe me, I really want to make sure we stay here for as long as possible.

Iran vs. Argentina Reports & Analysis..and a bit of Maradona.

 BBC.com Review

Lionel Messi curled a stunning 91st-minute winner to send Argentina through to the World Cup knockout stage and rob the excellent Iran of a deserved point.

Iran spent much of the first half under pressure but more than once threatened to inflict what would have been a huge upset.

Argentina's Lionel Messi

Lionel Messi scores stunning goal in stoppage time

Argentina’s celebrations at the final whistle were wild and prolonged, while the sight of coach Alejandro Sabella embracing Messi at the tunnel gave an indication of what this meant to the two-time champions.

The build-up was dominated by talk of a rift between Messi and Sabella, the captain having expressed his displeasure at the 5-3-2 formation used in the first half againstBosnia-Hercegovina when Messi also scored the decisive goal.

Sabella duly reverted to the Barcelona forward’s preferred 4-3-3 and was rewarded by his star man at the last.

[box title=”KEY FACTS” style=”bubbles” box_color=”#eaee3d” title_color=”#00000″ radius=”5″] Key facts Argentina have won 11 and lost just one of their past 14 World Cup group games, scoring 27 goals and conceding just five in total in this run. Iran attempted just 130 passes against Argentina, the fewest made by a team in a World Cup match since 1966. Lionel Messi has now scored 40 goals for Argentina.[/box]

Iran looked devastated at the end but must take immense confidence from a performance that combined defensive resilience with attacking adventure – and from the knowledge they could still qualify.

Carlos Queiroz’s men actually created the first meaningful chance when Jala Hosseini headed wide from Ashkan Dejagah’s free-kick, although Argentina then assumed control.

Javier Mascherano and Fernando Gago provided a solid base for Angel Di Maria and full-backs Pablo Zabaleta and Marcos Rojo to support Messi, Gonzalo Higuain and Sergio Aguero.

Iran goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi displayed superb reflexes to foil Higuain and save one-handed from Aguero. Rojo then headed narrowly wide, Messi was off target with a free-kick and Ezequiel Garay nodded inches over the bar. The Iran fans celebrated every reprieve like a goal.

“Lionel Messi is the difference in so many games and he’s done it again. You know what he’s going to do, take a step and curl it, but there’s nothing the magnificent Iranians can do. It is just world class.”

Argentina were meeting a wall of resistance every time they attacked but Iran’s impressive defending ought to have been no surprise – they kept more clean sheets in qualifying than any team at the tournament. And when not thwarting the South Americans’ forwards, Queiroz’s team again came close to a goal of their own with another Hosseini header.

Iran’s preparations for the competition had been hampered by political sanctions that affected their funding and ability to organise friendlies, but they looked fully prepared and again came close to taking a shock lead through Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Masoud Shojaei surged forward and fed Pejman Montazeri to cross for the Charlton Athletic striker, who would have scored had his header been aimed anywhere other than straight at Argentine keeper Sergio Romero.

But the chance served to further bolster Iran’s self-belief and after Dejagah had a strong penalty claim rejected by referee Milorad Mazic, the Fulham man was thwarted by Romero’s fingertips as he met another Montazeri cross with a powerful header.

Messi worked hard to swing the momentum back in Argentina’s favour, slotting wide after a quick break and sending a free-kick into the side-netting, while Sabella introduced Rodrigo Palacio and Ezequiel Lavezzi in place of Aguero and Higuain as his side pushed hard for a winner.

Still chances came for Iran, however, Ghoochannejhad nearly stealing the win, only for Romero to make a diving stop – and that miss proved costly when captain Messi stepped up with a wonderful finish into the far corner to send Argentina through with a game to spare and keep them on course for a first World Cup since 1986.



Team Melli looked excellent in defeat

Before the start of this World Cup not many Iran fans imagined that going into the third and final round of the group stage Iran would still have chance to fight for a spot in the Round of 16.

Yet, despite Saturday’s heartbreaking 1-0 defeat against Argentina, Team Melli still has a fair chance to go beyond the group stage in a World Cup tournament that has turned out to be anything but predictable.

Team Melli put up a valiant fight against a star studded Argentina in Belo Horizonte; however, a magical extra-time moment from the world’s best player rubbed them off what would have been the best result in the country’s footballing history.

Once the initial disappointment of this difficult defeat has passed, most Team Melli fans will come to recognize and appreciate their team’s inspired performance for what it was.

To put it in perspective consider these facts: the Argentina team that took the field against Team Melli included four of the best attacking players in the game today.

Of the four, Lionel Messi has the top total annual earnings of 64.7 million dollars, plus Sergio Aguero with 23.3 million dollars are respectively the second and fifth top earners in this World Cup according to Forbes magazine. That is more than triple the total annual budget of Iranian football federation.

Furthermore, Argentina’s squad included seven or more players who have won major trophies with top European clubs.

And finally, Iran came to this World Cup as one of the lowest ranked teams in the tournament while Argentina are one of the early favorites to go all the way.

Many football purists criticised coach Carlos Queiroz’s defensive approach against African champions Nigeria in the first match of Group F. However, today we saw a different side to his team. They did put numbers behind the ball for most of the first half, but in the second half they took advantage of a frustrated Argentina and created a few dangerous opportunities of their own.

Sergio Romero, the Argentina goalkeeper, was forced to make four saves during the match (as compared to eight by his Iranian counterpart), and one of them had to be a top class acrobatic fingertip save. Queiroz may not have the luxury of many big names on his roster, but he has somehow managed to drill a ton of self-belief in his players and extract every ounce of performance he possibly can out of them.

The boys, for their part, have played their hearts out in more than 180 minutes of football at the highest stage. Against Argentina every single Team Melli starter, including the three who were substituted out late in the game, ran over 9 kilometers. Lone striker Reza Ghoochannejhad ran over 11 kilometers as did 33 year old midfielder and captain Javad Nekounam. Midfielder Andranik Teymourian who ran over 10 km had a match high 48 sprints followed by Ghoochannejhad who had 44.

It was a laboured effort, but Lionel Messi and Argentina overcame Iran to advance to the second round.
Lionel Messi sidesteps two Iranian defenders. He would go on to score the game-winning goal for Argentina in their Group F clash.


Unfortunately, from Team Melli’s perspective, the Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria match ended with the worst possible result. The narrow 1-0 Nigerian victory means that Iran will not only have to win their final match against Bosnia, but also hope for a solid Argentine victory if they are to go through to the next round.

It is safe to assume that neither Argentina nor Nigeria will settle for a draw which would send both of them through at the expense of Iran, but who could blame them if they did exactly that?

It will be very interesting to see if Carlos Queiroz can manage to motivate his men for their last group match after such a deflating defeat. But regardless of what happens against Bosnia on June 25, it is a sure bet that the team will get a warm reception from the fans back home upon their return.

While the majority of Iranian football fans are purists who enjoy and appreciate free flowing and attacking football, they also recognize and value hard work and team effort even if it does not produce the beautiful football that they all love. Team Melli game to this tournament as overwhelming underdogs, but they have already outlasted two former world champions and given their fans another chance to dream of possibilities.


Maradona’s a curse! El Diego leaves early… Lionel Messi scores Argentina winner v Iran!

Saturday, June 21st, 2014


maradona argentina efe2 Maradonas a curse! El Diego leaves early... Lionel Messi scores Argentina winner v Iran!

After his disastrous reign as coach of Argentina at the last World Cup, the evidence suggesting Diego Maradona is now a jinx on the country he famously led to World Cup glory in 1986 is overwhelming!

Diego Maradona has made headlines across the globe after he was unable to get into Rio’s Maracana for Argentina’s opening match win over Bosnia-Herzegovina.

On Saturday in Belo Horizonte, Diego Maradona did make it into the stadium but to everyone in Argentina’s amusement… left early before Lionel Messi cracked home the beautiful winner against Iran.

As a result, the hashtag #Maradonamufa (‘Maradona’s a curse’) was trending on Twitter in Argentina after the 1-0 win over Iran.


And, La Nacion reports that Julio Grondona, president of the AFA, was celebrating in the Argentina dressing room, saying: “The jinx is gone, and we won.”

Maradona left his post as coach after the last World Cup with harsh words for Grondona, so it is no surprise the latter should celebrate in this manner.

A picture of Diego Maradona leaving early, before Lionel Messi scored against Iran, is above…



Maradona gives “moron” Grondona the middle finger

DPA 06/22/2014

Diego Maradona came out all guns blazing in response to comments by the head of the Argentinian FA, Julio Grondona, suggesting that the legend had been bringing Argentina bad luck during the World Cup.

“The jinx left and we won”, Grondona was quoted as saying after the 1-0 victory over Iran at the Mineirão in Belo Horizonte, where Lionel Messi’s last-gasp wonder strike came once Maradona had left the stadium.

The Argentina legend wasted little time biting back at the AFA president. “So, someone said that the goal was scored because I left”, he noted, before referring to Grondona in person, calling him a “moron” and literally sticking his middle finger up to show just what he thought of the comments.

Maradona, who coached the ‘Albiceleste’ for their disappointing campaign at South Africa 2010, is currently working out of Rio de Janeiro as a World Cup pundit for Venezuela TV channel ‘Telesur’, for whom he presents a special show entitled ‘De Zurda’ in reference to his famous left foot.

Personal jibes
Maradona went even further in his riposte, labelling the AFA chief a stooge: “My message to Grondona is that I paid for the clothes on my back through hard work; he bought everything he has on thanks to his cronies at FIFA”.

Nigeria defeats Bosnia-Herzegovina

Peter Odemwingie scored the African champions Nigeria only goal to defeat Bosnia-Herzegovina 1-0 at Arena Pantanal, Cuiaba, on Saturday, June 21.

The win gives Nigeria its 4th point in Group F and enhance its chances to qualify with Argentina.

Nigeria have their first World Cup win since 1994 and Bosnia are out of the World Cup. It was an unspired performance by the European debutante and whatever chances they created were wasted by Edin Dzeko. At the back Emir Spahic looked like he was playing football for the first time and Emmanuel Emenike’s dominance of the right flank led to the Nigerian goal.

Bosnia , however , had a legitimate goal scored by Edin Dzeko ruled offside by the referee to complete a miserable day for the referees errors in Group F of the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

Team Melli must defeat Bosnia on Wednesday to stand any chance of qualifying to the next round along with Argentina.

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Carlos Queiroz “fans must judge players on reality of Iranian amateur league !!”

• Coach hits back over boos after dour draw with Nigeria
• Portuguese praises his ‘amateur league’ squad’s achievements
Carlos Queiroz said his Iran players deserve 'respect and civility' for reaching the finals
Carlos Queiroz said his Iran players deserve ‘respect and civility’ for reaching the World Cup finals. 

When the final whistle went in the first 0-0 draw of the World Cup, Iran’s players gathered in the middle of the pitch in Curitiba and applauded their fans while boos rang out around the stadium. But the Iran coach, Carlos Queiroz, insisted he was satisfied with the team’s performance and gave a powerful defence of their achievements in reaching the finals, as he sought to remind World Cup supporters of the reality of Iranian football.

“We are not celebrating a great day, we are not celebrating the draw, we are just celebrating our work,” Queiroz said. “We are celebrating the effort that the team did on the pitch for 90 minutes. I know that the people in Iran are very happy this evening.”

Iran have won only one of the 10 games they have played in the World Cup and they have not qualified for the finals of the tournament since 2006 but they reached this stage by defeating South Korea, making them the best team in Asia.  Of their starting XI, six play in the Iranian league, one in Kuwait, one in Qatar and two in the Premier League – at Fulham and Charlton Athletic. And their preparation has not been easy either, with the Iranian federation struggling to arrange friendlies and resources being limited. Players even discovered their kit was shrinking in the wash.

“Fans need to know what we did over three years to be here,” Queiroz said. “You have to judge the performance of our players based on the reality. You have to judge our players not as players from Liverpool, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Barcelona, or Corinthians but as players that play in an amateur league. You need to understand that when you watch them on the pitch.

“I have the right to come here and tell you that, so that you know, otherwise you will not realise. I want you to judge what these players have done as a great achievement. In Asia, we qualified number one, with South Korea behind us. We’re ranked ahead of Iran and South Korea and this is a huge achievement. My players deserve civility and respect for what they have done.”

In the front row of the press room, Nigerian journalists were gathered and Queiroz told them: “If you want to play a friendly, you go to London and you play a friendly. For us, it does not work like that. We have problems [just] to arrange matches and that is why I am very happy with what we have done. I think football people understand what we have done. Most of our players play in an amateur league. Our players deserve respect, OK?”

There was respect for Iran from Nigeria. Both Mikel John Obi and the coach, Stephen Keshi, said they had been frustrated by Iran – describing them as a team that sat deep and never sought to attack – but admitted that doing so was legitimate, even if Keshi did notice a bit of “unexpected physicality”. “Fair play to them; they knew what they were doing,” Mikel said.

Like Queiroz, Keshi too was keen to bring a little realism to the evening. “Criticism is part of the game. We don’t always have patience, we don’t always understand football. In my country people want to win all the time and they don’t understand that it doesn’t always work that way,” he said.

And asked if he had the solution for Nigeria’s second game, Keshi replied: “I’m not God, I’m just the coach.”

Editorial: How good Team Melli was vs. Nigeria?

There wasn’t much doubt as to what type of football we would be expecting to see from Carlos Queiroz men against Nigeria. It wasn’t much of a spectacle for the avid football fans but Queiroz has to be credited for achieving what he planned in the first place. The coach decided to play a strong defensive game and that game-plan was executed to perfection by his players and it worked. Mission accomplished.


We are still gauging the reaction of the fans, however in the early stages, we can feel the disappointment of many who felt that Nigeria was there for the taking, and Iran did not capitalized on it. With only two offensive players in the entire lineup in Ghoochannejad and Dejagah (substituted by Jahanbakhsh in 78th minute), the possibilities of rattling the strong Nigerians defenders was not an easy task. Ghoochannejad managed it once only and that was on a corner kick. That is about as much real threat that Iran created on Nigeria throughout the game.

The Nigerians were not the power nor even the threat that were hyped to be, mostly by the English press who are familiar with their players making their living in the Premiere league. While Team Melli was certainly much worse than their average , once the ball left the organized defense line.

Kenneth Omeruo beats Iran's Reza Ghoochannejhad in the air

While in the middle of the field, Nekounam and Teymourian did a sterling job on defensive duties both operating as holding midfielders, Hajsafy for most of the match was incognito , while Ashkan Dejagah , a key player with so much hope built upon him , played his worst game in a Team Melli shirt.

Under such circumstances, expecting the isolated Ghoochannejad to single handedly wreck the Nigerians was a tall order despite the fact that the Charlton Athletic forward performed quite well and managed to be a menace with his quick turns and accelerations while creating the only real threat heading the ball resulting in a terrific save by Vincent Enyeama.

Route 1 football straight from the defense to the forward line that Iran tried a few times did not work for Team Melli.

Despite the fact that Team Melli under Queioz game plan , achieved what they were hoping for , we need to be realistic and be critical to their overall game. Poor and incomplete passing was the obvious shortfall of the team. While Nigeria was cleverly moving the ball and with confidence, Team Melli could not complete more than a 3 or 4 passes, especially in the first 30 minutes of the game. World Cup phobia was in evidence. And then ‘Hail Mary’ balls, referred to as “Ali Asghari” football in Iran , was also a sign of desperation or panic at times. Some aimless cleared balls towards the Nigerian side hoping that one reaches the lone striker of Team Melli, never paid dividends. Almost all such balls, were intercepted by the Nigerians.

 Battle Obi Mikel  Ghoochannejad

We do have to commend the tight and organized Team Melli defense as the real star of this match. In fact, with players like, Emmanuel Emenike, Victor Moses, Shola Ameobi and Peter Odemwingie  , Nigeria at least on paper , has a real potent strikers force with skills that can turn match results . The excellence of Team Melli back 5 defenders was as such, that the inexperienced Alireza Haghighi was hardly tested. Incidentally , Haghighi in goal is one surprise by Queiroz who is hardly known to take such risks. We may never know why he opted for the Russian club Rubin Kazan keeper, who did not manage a single appearance for his club before transferring to a second division Portuguese club Sporting da Covilhã and finally being able to play 12 competitive matches in two seasons. It will be interesting to hear Queiroz’s thought about Haghighi’s starting role in goal. Chances are that Ahmadi might had cold feet or stage fright and Queiroz have felt it and opted for the younger keeper.

A special mention should also be given to Team Melli aerial supremacy. Hosseini and Sadeghi were controlling the airspace in defense with forceful power of Tomcat F14’s of the Iranian Air force.

Iran Nigeria Heydari

Expecting Queiroz to change his game plan and be bolder in the next match against the might of Argentina, is probably not forthcoming. Iran will stick to what they do best and will be out there on June 21st to frustrate the trio of Messi , Aguero and Higuain. Teymourian and Nekounam defending from deep, while the 5 man Iran defensive system clearing every ball and doubling on Messi and Co. Iran’s only hope of making a difference offensively is still lies upon Ashkan Dejagah shoulders. His form will be the catalyst up front and in offensive moves. If he is contained by the Argentine midfielders, the job of Iran will be that much harder on all fronts. In his good day, we can see him beating the slow Argentine defenders for pace and skill to provide the ammunition for Gucci or score one of his wonder goals.