Team Melli defeated in its only preparation game.

Algeria’s National football team defeated Iran 2-1 in a friendly match held at the Jassim Bin Hamad Stadium in Doha, Qatar Sunday night.

Riad Benayad opened the scoring for Algeria two minutes before the halftime.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh equalized the match in the 64th minute but Algerian winger Mohamed El Amine Amoura scored the winner in the 82nd minute. Both the Algerian goals were gifts from Iranian defenders.

The match started more than 20 minutes late due to the late arrival of the Algerian bus to the Qatar FC stadium. There was also a minute of silence before the match for the tragic accidents in Iran and the death of the Algerian National team player, Billel Benhammouda who was killed in a car accident after returning home from a match in which he scored a goal.

The first half saw action from both teams but a horrible back pass lead to the first goal for Algeria just before the half times.

In the second half, Jahabakh found the back of the net and the Iran equalizer from an assist by Omid Nourafkan.

Another wayward defending due to the pressure that Algerians were exerting on the Iranian ball carrier resulted in the Algerian winner.

Despite the defeat, Team Melli plays some neat football, but the players are obviously in need of much more than this match in order to perform well to their true ability at the world cup. Algeria was virtually playing with the U23 team while Team Melli was at full strength minus the two central defenders, Khalilzadeh and Kananizadegan.

Korea Rep v Iran post match analysis.

It had to happen one day, as Team Melli lost to its nemesis South Korea after 11 years. It also meant the end of Dragan Skocic’s undefeated record extending two years and 15 matches. Iran lost to a full-strength Korea 2-0 in World Cup stadium in the top of the table clash of Group A FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 qualifiers.

Under the circumstances, it was an honorable defeat, if there is such a term and the result is hardly a source of shame but more rather a disappointment. Losing half of your fix starting players while playing against the top team in the group is in fact expected and fair. This does not indemnify the coach and player, however, as there were some shortfalls and gaps that need attention and analysis.

Starting at the lineup. Despite Skocic statement in the press conference that his team will not be playing a defensive game, his lineup and gameplan were exactly that!

There were six defenders in his team: Shojaa KHALILZADEH, Majid HOSSEINI , Milad MOHAMMADI, Hossein KANANI-ZADEGAN, Omid NOORAFKAN, and Ehsan HAJSAF . However one interprets that, it is still a defensive park-the-bus like lineup.

With a team like South Korea, such a plan will be a dream as it allows their players to keep the pressure up and keep coming at you time and time again until they score, and that is exactly what they did.

Opting for a defensive game plan was not the best option despite the half-strength team. Skocic actually only one defender in Moharrami who was easily replaceable without overhauling the team defense.

There was also this disturbing unconfirmed news that Khalilzadeh started the match carrying an injury sustained in training. It was clear that the defender was suffering and had to be substituted before halftime.

In the Goal:

Despite the horror of the first goal, where Amir Abedzadeh committed a real blunder, the keeper was at the top of his game and was at his best during the first half. His aerial superiority and timely interceptions and distribution of the ball were quite creditable. Even in the first few minutes of the second half, he managed to make a miraculous double save and thwarted Hueing Min Son several times. In the second goal, he was not to be blamed either.

The Defenders:

Skocic wanted to solidify this line to ensure the Koreans don’t turn their full-strength team into an advantage. The poor marking in addition to the clumsy handling by Abedzadeh, resulted in the first goal, but it was not only the keeper’s fault. Questions should be asked why 4 markers could not stop Son Heung-Min from shooting. That was feeble marking.  The second goal, however, was definitely poor marking which allowed the South Korean defender to find himself unmarked in the box and a simple tap-in to score.

On the positive side, the defense really cut the Korean supplies by giving Son Hueing Min very little breathing space. A world-class player like him can inflict real damage and despite scoring one goal the Iranian defenders deprive him of many.

Where were the Midfield players?  

Collectively, it was the worst of the 4 lines of the team. As the game plan required defending from deep, Skocic was counting of these players to form the first defense line, however, that was the Achilles Heals of the team. The defensive side of the midfield worked fine and relatively did what it was asked to do, but they all failed to support the lonely striker in Azmoun and were instrumental in having Azmoun experience one of his most futile matches with Team Melli.

The insistence of Gholizadeh and Nourollahi to send long balls or trying to pass the ball behind the Korean defense to Azmoun failed one time after another. In fact, during the whole match, Iran managed one such success in passing behind to Azmoun, which the striker managed to head mildly into the Korean keepers waiting arms.

Whether the two central midfielders were going according to the game plan or using their own initiatives, is unknown but that is a clear shortfall and needs to be addressed for future and more important games.

Jahanbakhsh and Ezatollahi were sorely missed in this match.

A One-man show at the front!

Basically, that was the case with Azmoun up front against South Korea. He drew a lonely and desperate figure. There was no chance in hell for Azmoun to create a threat let alone score with the little support he had from his teammates and their game plan. Frustrated and lonely, Azmoun was easily neutralized by the Koreans.


In general, the absence of 5 key players is significant for any team and a handicap against the strongest, but in hindsight, things could have been better. It is a loss that practically meant very little, but for the experience and future games, Skocic should have a big lesson to learn and study the match carefully to discover the loops and the gaps that lead to the loss. But once again, no big harm was done.

One point to end the subject. This match will surely be celebrated by the anti-Skocic camp, but then again let us not get fooled by them and their hidden agenda. Skocic’s reputation remains intact and would be prudent to support him all the way to Doha.

Grand performance by Team Melli

The Performance

There was indeed a general agreement that Team Melii did not perform very well against Syria in the empty tribunes of Azadi stadium. We gave the team the benefit of the doubt and considered their preparation as the worst in recent history.

Five days later, the Team Melli that turned up in Doha put the impressions of the Syria match to bed. A different lineup, 3 days or 6 sessions of practice, better organization, and with the Head Coach on the bench, the result was nothing short of admirable in every department.

Let us take a closer look at the Iraq match. Bear in mind that it was an away game for Team Melli and only 5days from the previous match.

Iraq had a total of 2 shots on target only, Iran had 12.

Iraq created 2 chances, Iran 12 out of which Team Melli scored 3 goals.

Iraq was slightly better in ball possession with 52% against Iran’s 48%

Now, Iraq is a strong contender for qualification. They have just stopped the Koreans in Seoul a few days back and were narrowly defeated by Team Melli in Bahrain. However, the early goal must have ruined Dick Advocaat’s plans from the onset. Scoring a goal in a counterattack, parking the bus for the rest of the match, and performing the circus of theatrics, time-wasting, faking injury is the hallmark of Iraqi football. They do frustrate teams, especially strong oppositions, by such tactics, and many times, they get the desired result. That early Jahanbakhsh header, however, ruined it for the Iraqi team.

Star Player

 Team Melli was efficient, strong, and highly organized in both the attack and defense and those factors reflect the result. As a group, they performed well with each player conducting their task effectively.

However, there are some outstanding individual performances, too. The players that need a special mention are:

Ahmad Noorollahi: The maestro of the team, a midfielder who was the engine of a very efficient midfield, perhaps the man of the match.

Mehdi Taremi: with one brilliant assist and a magical well-taken goal, deserves a mention.

Sardar Azmoun: Despite him being incognito most of the match, and that is no fault of him, his persistence and skills to find Taremi for the second goal, was world-class.

Shojaa Khalilzadeh: Another solid and error-free performance that deserves credit.

….And the star on the rise

The grand performance of Omid Noorafkan was a breath of fresh air. The Sepahan player was considered one of the best young players in Iran in his early footballing career. This 24 years player was a victim of changing so many clubs at early ages of development which never really stabilized his career. Now with Sepahan, he was worthy of being in the starting Team Melli’s lineup.

His performance against Iraq was truly outstanding. He hardly put a foot wrong and was the icing on the cake fr this Team Melli team.


The shortfalls, especially in the discipline department, still exist, but fortunately, it was not bad against Iraq. Saeid Ezatollahi’s yellow card was totally silly and uncalled for while Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s unnecessary plunge could have been a card with a different color.

A deserved 3-0 win for Team Melli vs. Iraq

Three beautiful goals, 3 precious points, and one hell of a polished performance were the result of Team Melli’s game against Iraq on Tuesday evening. Iran beat Iraq 3-0 on Matchday 2 of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 to lead the table with maximum points.

Team Melli opened the scoring as early as the third minute from a brilliant piece of play started by one of the match stars Omid Noorafkan. From the left flank, Noorafkam sent a perfectly weighted ball to Taremi who was acting as a wing. Without much hassle, Taremi crossed to the onrushing  Alireza Jahanbkash. Team Melli Captain headed a powerful ball into the goal with Iraq keeper Fahad Taleb could only parry into his own net.

In the minutes after the goal, Iraq took control of the game with surprising ease, however, none of their efforts was towards the goal as Beiravand had the quietest period. But that ball possession for Iraq did not last long as Team Melli took control of the midfield quite logically with Noorollahi and Amiri playing a vital role. Iraq lost Bashar Resan midway through the half due to injury.

Sardar Azmoun could have made the score 2-0 after a perfect diagonal pass from Noorollahi, another star of the match, from the right. Azmoun met the ball and released a powerful low shot, this time however Fahad Taleb was ready for it and saved brilliantly.

The start of the second saw Iraq put the ball into the net as early as the 2nd minute to return the compliment, but the goal was ruled offside by the linesman and the VAR confirmed the right decision has been taken by the Chinese referee.

From then on, both teams battled for the ball, especially in the midfield. Iran looked like the more organized side, with some neat passing and swift counterattacks. The enthusiastic Iraqi’s looked naive in defending and from a ball that was just going dead for an outside throw, Azmoun controlled it and despite two markers, he sent a superb ball all the way to the box where Taremi was lurking. The Porto striker brilliantly controlled the ball, ran a meter or two, and slotted the ball between the onrushing Iraq keeper’s legs, it was 2-0.

The third goal came late in the game with Iraqi players tiring, this time Karim Ansarifard, a late substitute did another Azmoun trick but from the opposite side, the ball reached Ali Ghlozadeh, himself a late substitute. The Chareloi midfielder received the ball well and dribbled Dhargam Ismael, his marker in one smooth move and easily slotted home past Fahad Taleb.

It wasn’t that difficult after all. Team Melli did not leave much for the critics. All the players did their job well, Although Aref Aghasi was short of experience and confidence being his debut match at an important match, he defended well and managed some shy incursions forward, too.

The two outstanding players were Noorollahi and Omid Noorafkan. The central defenders were solid as a rock and very little passed them. Amiri was a menace to the Iraqi and must be given a special mention.

Iran now leads the table with six points and a goal difference of +4 ahead of second-ranked team South Korea.

Lesson learned from AFC Champions League

In one of the worst weeks of Iranian club football, the four teams representing Iran played in the second round of AFC Champions League and managed 1 point from a possible 12 with Persepolis’ draw against the unfancied Sharjah Club of the UAE.

What have we learned from the appearance of Esteghlal, Sepahan, Shar Khodro, and Persepolis in this edition of  AFC Champions League 2020 Week 2:

  • After being the top contenders and challengers for trophies in Asia, Iranian clubs are no more than also-ran and will have serious difficulty holding to their quota in the AFC Champions League in the future or even next season.
  • Despite the admirable action by sticking to the local coaches, the Iranian clubs have unfortunately also handicapped themselves as they seem to be behind the rest in terms of tactical strategy, game-plans, changes in plans, options and knowledge of modern coaching.
  • There is an undeniable gap between the best Iranian coaches and the foreign counterparts who are working in this region. This gap in knowledge and competency requires many years to close.
  • The transition from players to successful coaches has never been easy, even if the player was one of the elites. Golmohammadi and Majidi have fared worst in the two matches as head coaches of the two most popular teams in a polarized football of Iran. The results and performances of Persepolis and Esteghlal were extremely disappointing.
  • It is quite rare to experience an Iranian team, be it a club or Team Melli come from behind and win a match. This is indicative of a perennial character weakness of the whole team, players and coaches.
  • Iranian teams DO NOT learn from their experiences and mistakes. They keep repeating the same and losing due to similar weaknesses. The accountability mostly lies in the coaches for not emphasizing these mistakes and their failures to address them in order to not repeat.
  • Protests, objections, shouting and general petulant behavior of the Iranian team have become iconic. It is a regular scene to find an Iranian player or coach protest and shout his head off. This is a serious shortcoming that always affects a player’s performance.
  • Iranian teams and coaches have very little regard to sport psychology and as such, players do not act professionally and do not stick to their tasks especially while they are losing.
  • The current league has failed to produce quality players for Team Melli. The poor standard of the League, the system, coaching and politics/corruption has ensured that the league players focus on issues unrelated while ignoring their tasks and development.
  • Only a handful of Iranian players who took part in the two matches of their team are worth mentioning. Payam Niazmand, Mehdi Ghaedi , Omid Noorafkan and possibly Mehdi Torabi are the only ones that have excelled and could be assets for Team Melli.
  • There is a goalkeeper crisis in Iran. Mehdi Rahmati was a calamity in the two matches for Shahr Khodro and his standing watching while the Uzbek player score should be taught in all football schools. Alireza Beiranvand is unreliable, weak and lacking confidence. His performance is also affected by contractual issues and the desire to leave Persepolis. Hossein Hosseini , despite a few good saves for Esteghlal, is quite inconsistent and shaky at times. The only bright keeper that played well in both matches is Payam Niazmand. The young Sepahan keeper was a pleasure to watch and should be seriously considered for Team Melli instead of Beiranvand.
  • Iran used to produce solid as a rock defender and any hall of fame of Iranian football will have defenders by the dozen as great defenders. Not anymore. It is a mystery why the defenders are deteriorating, but the answers may lie in the ineffectual coaching and guidance from technical directors.
  • The poor standard of Iranian clubs will be directly reflected in Team Melli and threatens its ambition to qualify for the World Cup.

Déjà vu. Omid Team eliminated!

Omid Team has been eliminated from the group stages of the AFC Asian U23 Championship and with it the eternal dream of qualification to the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

In the final do and die match against winless China, Omid Team struggled badly and wasted chance after chance to score goals until the 85th minute when a dubious penalty call by the referee allowed Noorafkan to score from the spot-kick. It was one goal too little and too late despite Uzbekistan losing their match against South Korea 2-1.

Uzbekistan qualified as the second of the group with 4 points, same as Iran but with a better goal difference of one goal.

In a match of wasted chances, especially the one that profligate Mehdi Ghaedi wasted while the goal and the net was at his mercy, wide open with the Chinese keeper stranded and nowhere near covering his goal. Ghaedi got the loose ball and with all the time and options available to him, he decides to head the ball into the empty net but he missed by a big margin!

How cruel and how heartbreaking!

This was the final nail in the coffin as the likes of Sayyadmanish, Shojaei, Mehdikhani kept shooting blanks and wasting chance after chance against a Chinese team that had nothing to play for but pride.

At the end of the day, this Omid Team did not deserve to qualify with these players and coaches.  The passive, back-foot approach, the helter-skelter style employed by Hamid Estili once again looked out of date against opponents who embody many of the principles associated with modern football. Estili, never an accomplished coach in the first place had a disadvantage with a bunch of individual players, who did not truly understand the concept teamwork and tactical (not that there was much of that in evidence) discipline, hence that combination turned into what the experts expected, failure of Team Omid.

It was Déjà vu.

That eerie feeling that the fans and media personnel have lived through the situation on numerous spells. The same lame excuses, the same justifications, the same “We were unlucky” and the same “We will do better next time, inshallah!”

44 years since the last Olympics, and by the next cycle, it will be 48 years wait. At this rate, we will be passing the half-century of years since Iran has made the Olympics Games football competition, a feat that nations who are supposedly below Iran in World Football Ranking have achieved many times.

Ultimately, in this current messy organizational structure and management deficiencies in Iran’s football at all levels, fans have to get used to failures after failures. You reap what you sow, nothing more nothing less. Deep-rooted changes have to be implemented and cleansing is done by competent professionals rather than devout loyalists. Success is achieved only by skillful, learned, experienced professional who base their work on systems and processes of modern football management.

Far too many gaps in Estili’s game plan.

There were no surprises in the performance of Omid Team under Hamid Estili against Uzbekistan yesterday.  Even with such a statement, many fans were hoping that the famous players with household names in Omid Team will make a big impact and cover at least part of the team’s weaknesses and gaps.

Players like Omid Noorafkan, Allahyar Sayyadmanish, Mohammad Mohebi are already full internationals who have played and scored for Team Melli while the likes of Mahdi Ghaedi and Reza Shekari are considered valuable players with considerable ability to improve. The former has already registered 8 goals in the Persian Gulf Pro League.

However, except for Omid Noorafkan who is being utilized in defense hence depriving the team of his wonderful vision and Pirlo-like passing, the rest of them were disappointing. Ghaedi huffed and puffed like always but his delivery and final touch remains suspect when his team really requires every effort.

The feeblest performance of the so-called stars was Shekari and Sayyadmanish up in the forward line. Not coordination, no proper communication, little or no significant passing, no awareness of each other position and individualist showmanship that was a big waste for Omid Team.

A smart seasoned coach would have immediately figured out that this combination upfront is not working and would have acted accordingly, but Estili for reasons beyond comprehension failed to notice that.

The Midfield lacked a strong leader such as Noorafkan, who was in the central defensive position. Mohebi was quite disappointing against the Uzbeks despite having a very good season with his team. He missed an open goal and a chance for his team to take the lead.

Omid team never looked like a coherent team with a strategy. Against Korea, we expect the same old tactics, or lack of it, and emphasis on individual performance rather than teamwork. Not that a victory is not possible, but with a year of disappointing performances by Omid Team, it is highly unlikely that Hamid Estili will find a magic wand to fix the things against the powerful and organized Koreans.

Realistically and no matter how high our hopes and expectations are, the chances of a tactically deficient Omid Team qualifying to the next round are on the balance. A win or even a draw against the Koreans will still keep the hopes alive. A defeat will almost mean the end of the road and those abundant and unceasing promises that this team is good enough to make it to Tokyo after 44 years of absence.

Uzbekistan, a tough test for Omid in today’s match.

Iran Omid national team will be playing Uzbekistan in their first match in the Asian-Olympics Tokyo qualifying group stage group C.

The team which has been preparing for over two years and has made several coaching changes is a group that is possibly the toughest one of the 4 groups. China and Korea Rep make the other two teams of the group.
Hamid Estili announced the team line up for the first match.

Habib Abbasiifar, Mojtaba Najarian, Mehdi Mehdikhani, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, Reza Shekari, Reza Dehghani, Mohammad Mohebbi, Ali Shojaei, Matin Karimzadeh, Omid Noorafkan, and Aref Aghasi

Omid will be in an excellent position if they can win all the 3 points against the tough Uzbek team. The defending champion Uzbekistan is one of the favorites to qualify for the Olympics.

The match will start 13:45 Iran time at Tinsulanon stadium in the south of Thailand.

Omid team ties Qatar with Gentleman Estili’s generosity!

In a friendly match held in Doha, Iran’s Omid Team (U23) tied with Qatar U23  2-2 today. The match played on Saturday evening at Al Arabi’s Hamad AlKabir Stadium behind closed doors.

Omid team led the first half 2-0 with goals scored by Reza Shekari from a penalty kick, and Mehdi Ghaedi.

Hamid Estili’s had the upper hand on Félix Sánchez Bas, the Spanish coach of Qatar and the Asian Cup Champions in the first half. Both teams are preparing for the upcoming AFC U23 Championship in Thailand, which is also the qualifiers for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 football tournament.

In the first half, Qatar player Mohammed Emad Aiash was sent off in the 35th minute for violent conduct, however, Hamid Estili suggested to his Qatari counterpart Felix Sanchez to replace the sent off player with another one. Qatar team obliged as they sent in Ahmed Suhail to replace the sent off player.

It was the sportsmanship act by Estili and a clever one too as he needed to see his team play against the strongest opposition possible regardless of the result.

The ensuing Free kick from the sending off was a beautifully executed goal by Mehdi Ghaedi.

The first half ended 2-0 for Iran’s Omid team.

At the beginning of the second half, the Qatari’s again lost another player Yusuf Abdulrazzaq with a red card. And again, Estili became the true gentleman and invited Sanchez to send a replacement! This time Qatar sent Amro AbduFattah to the field.

It is the first time in history at this level of football that one team is given two red cards, yet continue playing to the end with 11 players. Simply unheard of.

Abdul Rashid Ebrahim reduced the deficit on the 83rd minute for Qatar. The same player scored the equalizer in the dying seconds of the match om minute 96.  As customary with Iranian teams, there is always a lapse of concentration leading to conceding a goal.

In support of Hamid Estili’s demand for the league to be postponed, the FFIRI partially postponed some of the matches to enable the Omid team to set up a training camp in Doha and play this friendly match.

Teams Line up

Iran U23

Merag Esmaeili: Aref Aghasi, Mojtaba Najarian, Matin Karimzadeh, Reza Dehghani [76′ Sina Zamehran], MohammedMedi Mehdikhani, Mohammad Mohebi [66′ Mohammad Khodabandelo], Ali Shojaei [70′ Amir Roustaei], Omid Noorafkan, Mehdi Ghedi [70′ Reza Jabeira], Reza Shekari [66′ Jafar Salmani]

Coach : Hamid Estili

Qater U23

Mohammed AlBakri: Abdullah Ali Saei, Tarek Salman, Mohammad AlBayati, Yusuf Abdurazzaq , Abdulla Abdulslam, Khalifa Saad, Mohammed Emad Aiash , Hashim Ali, Abdulrahman Mohammed, Homam Elamain Ahmed.

Coach : Felix Sanchez Baz

Omid Team training is at full throttle.

Omid team is actively preparing for the crucial AFC U23 Championship 2020  by conducting constant practice sessions under the direction of Hamid Estili.

Today’s (Sunday) session which started at 9:30, Hamid Estili briefed the players on the objectives and details of today’s practice session. Then Mohammad Sharifi, Sina Zamiran and Mohammed Mohebbi left the group to conduct the fitness tests which all other players went undertook.

The training of the rest of the squad started with all members of the technical staff supervising the proceedings and giving the required tactical and technical advice.

This session which was carried out in the National Football Training Center included a light physical program. The next practice is scheduled for tonight at 9 pm.

Meanwhile, Omid Noorafkan and Mohammad Mohebbi (Sepahan) Reza Shekari and Mohammad Reza Azadi (Tractorsazi) Aref Aghasi and Mojtaba Najarian (Foolad Khuzestan) Ali Shojaei and Reza Dehghani (Nasiji Mazandaran) Ali Shahsavari and Mohammad KhodabandehLo (Peykan) and Sina Zamehran (Shar Khodro ) have joined the squad after their respective teams released them to Omid team.

Mohammad Mehdi Khani who plays for the Croatian side  NK Varaždin will also join the Omid (Olympic) squad on Monday.

“The initial list of Olympic team players, including 50 players, according to the AFC’s regulations. ” Hamid Estili said on the eve of the training camp’s inauguration. “After shortlisting the number to 30, the squad departs to  Qatar, where we will have an 8-day training camp and two friendly matches in Doha.”

“After returning to Tehran, we will announce the list of the final 23 players which form the Omid Team that will be competing in the AFC Asian Championship also the Olympic qualifiers scheduled to be held in Thailand. In some of the posts, we are still looking for the final option, such as the right-back, which was vacated due to the injury to  Aghajanpour and we are reviewing the names of 1 or 2 options to decide the final squad,” Estili added.

The coach of the Omid team once again called on the clubs to cooperate and assist with the team by saying: “Our plan during these 18 months of engagement was comprehensive. We tried to invite players for training or matches in FIFA days. We were aware of their special circumstances and situation, but at this juncture we expect the clubs to understand our situation too. Invited players will return to the clubs before the 16th week but after the end of the week it is necessary for the clubs to abandon their squads and allow our training to start. There are legal measures we can refer to, of course, but there should not be such issues among colleagues, and we need to all work in a friendly manner. I am sure my good colleagues at the clubs are on the side of the Omid team, preferring the national interest to everything else and helping us at this point.”