Tag: Shoja’a Khalilzadeh

Which players should be left out of Team Melli?

The defeat against Qatar in the semi-finals of the 18th AFC Asian Cup 2023 left Iranian fans with a bitter taste and yet another heartbreak. This tournament presented Iran with its best chance in 48 years to clinch the Asian trophy, yet familiar shortcomings plagued the team once again, resulting in a loss when victory seemed within reach.

Amidst the disappointment, criticism has been directed towards Amir Ghalenoei for his unwavering faith in established players despite their evident lack of form and fitness for a demanding tournament. Ghalenoei’s tendency to attribute the team’s failures to bad luck rather than addressing underlying issues has drawn skepticism from many observers.

Under mounting pressure, Ghalenoei has finally acknowledged the need for rejuvenation, signaling a potential shift in the team’s composition starting with the match against Turkmenistan, who did not qualify for the AFC Asian Cup 2023.

The pressing question now revolves around which players should make way for new blood. Let’s examine the list of potential candidates:

  1. Shoja Khalilzadeh (34 years) – The central defender will miss the Turkmenistan match due to a red card received against Qatar. While known for his courage and determination, Khalilzadeh’s diminishing pace and agility, compounded by his advancing age, highlight his limitations.
  2. Ehsan Hajsafy (33 years) – Once a dynamic winger known for his speed and defensive capabilities, Hajsafy has shown signs of decline in recent times. While still a valuable squad member, his diminishing abilities suggest that his time in the national team may be nearing its end.
  3. Karim Ansarifard (33 years) – Ansarifard’s frequent club changes have impacted his form, diminishing his value to Team Melli. With plenty of alternatives available, his role within the team has become less prominent.
  4. Omid Ebrahimi (35 years) – Ebrahimi’s dedication and work ethic are unquestionable, but his ability to compete at the international level has been called into question due to his age and physical limitations. Retirement from international football may be on the horizon for him.
  5. Shariyar Moghanlou (29 years) – Moghanlou has struggled to make an impact on the international stage, with his lack of speed and decisiveness hindering his effectiveness. His contributions to the team have been minimal, suggesting that his time in the national setup may be limited.
  6. Saeid Ezatolahi (27 years) – Once heralded as a rising star, Ezatolahi has failed to fulfill his potential, with inconsistency and frequent club changes hampering his progress. His physical attributes are no longer sufficient to set him apart, making a temporary exclusion from the squad a viable option.
  7. Ramin Rezaeian (33 years) – Despite being one of the more reliable players in the squad, Rezaeian’s recent form has dipped, particularly in the AFC Asian Cup. While still possessing valuable qualities, his declining speed and subpar performances raise questions about his long-term viability in the team.

In conclusion, while these players have served Team Melli with distinction, it may be time for them to step aside and make room for fresher talent that can inject renewed energy and vigor into the national team.

Team Melli breezes past Palestine

Team Melli started its challenge for the AFC Asian Cup with a predicted win in front of 7,691 spectators against Palestine at Education City Stadium refereed by Abdul Rahman Al Jassim from Qatar. The match saw the observance of a one-minute silence for the victims of the Israeli-American attack on Gazza, which ended 4-1 for Iran. In the other game of Group C, the UAE won three to one against Hong Kong to get off to a good start.

Team Melli stormed in the lead as it took Karim Ansarifard just about a minute to open the scoring from a Saman Ghoddos assist.

Ten minutes later, Saman Ghoddos, sent a free kick to the far corner of Palestine where Shoja’a Khalilzadeh was lurking after he cleverly lost his marker. The center-back, met the ball finishing into the net to give Iran a 2-0 lead. With two early goals, Team Melli had comfortable time to pass the ball around. However, the Palestinian team embarked on a rough play and was lucky to escape with only six yellow cards by the end of the match.

In the 37th minute, the beautiful teamwork resulted in the third goal. Alireza Jahanbakhsh received the ball just outside of Palestine’s box. He then sent a weighted ball for the onrushing Mehdi Ghayedi on his left. The tiny winger made no mistake sending a powerful shot to the far right corner of the Palestinian keeper Rami Hamadah. 3-0 for Iran and still plenty of minutes until the end of the first half.

The rough game of the opponents resulted in its first casualty for Iran as Khalilzadeh, the scorer of the second goal had to leave the field after a wild tackle from the Palestinian player.

The final minutes of the half, saw quite a blunder by Saeed Ezatollahi on a free kick for Palestine. Instead of clearing the ball away, he headed it right in front of Palestine forward, Tamer Seyam who had the easy task of finishing it into the net of hapless Beiranvand. Ezatollahi’s gift was unexpected and it created the loudest cheer of the day in Education City.

In the second half, Azmoun and Mohebbi replaced Ansarifard and Ghayedi. So, all Team Melli scorers have left the field. The rough game of the Palestinians continued but that did not prevent Sardar from scoring Iran’s fourth and his 50th goal in an Iranian Jersey to equal Karim Bagheri’s record.

There were lots of missed opportunities by Team Melli while Beirnvand made a great save near the end of the second half. Mehdi Taremi was unfortunate not to score. He had many chances but could not make any count.

The excellent performance of Saman Ghoddos who had two assists in this game, earned him the Most Valuable Player of the match. Sadegh Moharrami was at his best and a delight to watch. Ramin Rezaeian played a few minutes and despite not creating any chances, he seemed to be fit for the coming matches. That is crucial for Team Melli.

Iran leads the table with 3 points ahead of UAE who beat Hong Kong 3-1, on goal difference. Team Melli will meet Hong Kong next to consolidate the lead.

Queiroz complains and then threatens!

According to Mehr’s reporter, today’s training of the Iranian national football team was held in a situation where

Carlos Queiroz appeared in front of reporters for a few minutes to explain the latest developments and the conditions of his team. In his short conversation with the press, the Portuguese head coach of Team Melli complained about the training camp progress which he claimed was ruining his plans. He predicted that the preparation of Team Melli collapsing!!

In the beginning, he said: “For whatever reason, our preparation program is not moving in the right direction. You are aware that preparation is a key step in the path ahead and without it, we cannot achieve an ideal condition.” The head coach of the national team, for the first time, indirectly warned that some players not participating in this current training of the squad might face the chop. He said: “Now that we don’t have these players, it is difficult to check on their forms, rediness and standards. Probably, some of them will miss the opportunity to be on the national team.” Queiroz raised this issue of Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan and Shoja’a Khalilzadeh, the two central defenders , who had to return to Qatar after two weeks of training with the national team, by the order of the Al-Ahli club.

In this regard, he said: “Unfortunately, Qatar’s Al-Ahli Club did not allow Shoja’a Khalilzadeh and Kananizadegan to continue training with us. Five weeks without a football game is hard for them to be on the roster. I have to think about this again. All players must practice and play and be available. Queiroz also mentioned the absence of Esteghlal players in this round of training. The Esteghlal players are training for the Super Cup match against Nasaji, and now it is not clear whether the head coach of the national team is referring to the possibility of some players being crossed out from Team Melli roster. It is not clear if Queiroz exclusion warning was towards the Esteghlal player on Team Melli list or the defensive line pair of the Al-Ahli club.

In any case, Queiroz is back to his old tricks preparing people in case of failure in the World Cup. Al Ahli club have done Team Melli a favor by realsing the players for two weeks as they are under no obligation to release them a month before the start of the World Cup. Estghla Club is also in the same boat as Al Ahli as Esteghlal have an important match in the domestic league calender. They are playing the Nasiji in the super cup.

Iran vs Uruguay match preview.

Uruguay is a known quality Latin American team that depends on physical strength more than the finesse of the Brazilians.
Like the top footballing nations of South America, Uruguay has exported large numbers of footballers to Europe to enjoy the riches of the European leagues. Therefore, Head Coach Diego Alonso has a wealth of players at his disposal and can always field a strong side against any opponent.
However, Uruguay national team has recently suffered from aging players who tend to hang on despite their advancing ages. Players like Luis Suárez (35); Diego Godín (36) Edison Cavani (35) and Fernando Muslera (36) are still included in the squad.
Undoubtedly Alonso will use the match against Iran to give his younger players the chance to prove themselves as worthy of a place in the final list flying to Doha while putting them through their paces against a tough opponent. So, it is expected that Darwin Núñez (23), Federico Valverde (24), Matías Viña (24), Ronald Araújo (23) Lucas Torreira (26) to take the center stage.

As for Iran, it will interesting to see if Carlos Queiroz will stick to his old and trusted game plan and close all the gaps on the Uruguayans or perhaps be more adventurous with the likes of Azmoun and Taremi up front. Defense is one of the strong points of the Latin American team and the Iranians will it quite difficult to breach the defenses of Uruguay. With somehow a modest midfield that lacks creativity, most of the offensive moves by Iran are expected to be made from the half-backs with players Rezaeian, Moharrami, and Mohammadi doing the work.
Another interesting observation is whom will Queiroz pick for central defense, will he stay with the duo Khalilzadeh-Kananizadegan who were fundamental in Iran’s qualification to the FIFA World Cup and the two that Dragan Skocic religiously believed in, or will the Portuguese pick his own favorites from 2019 Majid Hosseini and Pouralganji?

Queiroz keeps the cards close to his heart and so far he has been following the same style. He is not going to reveal much to the press about his game plans and player selection either. However, it was interesting to notice some observers during Queiroz’s press conference that the Portuguese has slightly changed his attitude that he was well known in Iran. That venomous, tough-talking, and defying man has become a cooler and more settled character. Perhaps it is a sign of advancing age or it could be that Portugues no longer wants to open fronts against everyone and everybody, preferring to work quietly and avoid confrontations, especially with the press. Of course, officially he is only contracted to the bench of Team Melli until the World Cup with an option for extension.

For some players m this match is vital though. Saman Ghoddos needs to prove himself as this player has stagnated. He is one of the few players that can turn the team’s fortunes with his magical passes and vision. It is a crucial time for him and Team Melli.  Ansarifard‘s selection is because he is one of the Portuguese favorites but his performance has not been anything to shout about, the same can be said of Hajsafi. Both are capable players and can be useful for Team Melli but they really need to step up and be counted. There are more capable players who can claim a place in the team.

Beiranvand is another player on the edge. He had two bad seasons in Europe and Abedzadeh took the number one spot and showed quite a bit of class too. No doubt that Beiranvand is in the good books of the coach, but will he prove his worth against Uruguay?

Azmoun’s case is puzzling. The move to the Bundesliga so far has been a big-time flop. In European leagues, there is precious little time for a player to settle and Azmoun for one reason or another did not manage that with Bayer Leverkusen. He needs to play well against Uruguay and prove his worth for Team Melli at least.

Kick Off time is GMT +3
Iran Time: 20:30

Quiroz names Team Melli list for Austria camp.

Queiroz announced his final list of players who will be forming the squad for the Training Camp in Austria including two international friendlies versus Uruguay and Senegal.

Alireza Beiranvand, Amir Abedzadeh, Hossein Hosseini, Payam Niazmand

Ramin Rezaeian, Sadegh Moharammi, Saleh Hardani, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Majid Hosseini, Morteza Pouraliganji, Shojaa Khalilzadeh, Abolfazl Jalali, Milad Mohammadi, Omid Noorafkan

Omid Ebrahimi , Saeed Ezzatollahi, Milad Sarlak, Saman Ghoddos, Ahmad Noorollahi, Ehsan Haj Safi, Vahid Amiri.

Ali Gholizadeh, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Torabi, Mehdi Taremi, Karim Ansarifard, Sardar Azmoun.

As expected, Queiroz who was away from Iranian football since early 2019, elected to pick his old guards to take to Qatar. Players like Ansarifard, whose total playing time in the last few months did not exceed 90 minutes are included as are Ghoddos and Ezzarotlahi both fringe players in their teams. Vahid Amiri, a long-time senior player who has been on the injury list was also picked although it is reported that he is not quite ready and short of match practice. Amiri has been given special recovery training.

Queiroz not surprisingly picked another of his old guards, Rezaeian for the right back position. There was a surprise in naming Abolfazl Jalali a player who is not familiar to him, but the biggest surprise was his inclusion of Shojaá Khalilzadeh.

Team Melli’s central defense in the qualifiers, consisting of Khalilzadeh and Kananizadeh was formidable and had a large role to play in the qualification. However, Queiroz and Khalilzadeh have not been on good terms. Some observers were predicting that Shojaá will be ignored by the Portuguese. Perhaps, Queiroz’s peers advised him against excluding Khalikzadeh.

Central defence partnership of Team Melli is under threat!

One of the main reasons for the success of Team Melli in winning all the matches in World Cup qualifiers in Bahrain was the solid fortress-style partnership in the heart of the defense.

Dragan Skočić opted for Shojaá Khalilzadeh and Hossein Kananizadegan and created a strong partnership between them, and the result was spectacular.  Iran conceded one fluke goal from Hong Kong and was solid against the rest. This partnership continued in the third round of the FIFA World Cup 2022 qualifiers as only South Korea (3 goals) and Lebanon (1 goal) managed to score against Team Melli. It is a record that any team can be proud of in such a high level of competition.

 However, the return of Carlos Queiroz to Team Melli is threatening this partnership.

The Portuguese coach is fond of the duo Morteza Pouraliganji and Ramin Rezaiyan, both of whom were invited by FFIRI to submit their documents for the issue of visas for Austria. Pouraliganji’s return comes after more than a year of absence from the field due to a severe injury followed by operations. His decision to return to Iran domestic league football in the year of the 2022 World Cup is to be close to the selectors. He joined Persepolis and so far performed well in the three matches he played registereing good statistics. The sudden return of Queiroz will again put him as a favorite amongst the rest of the central defenders.

 Like Queiroz himself, Pouraliganji will benefit from the hard work of Shoja Khalilzadeh and Mohammad Hossein Kananizadegan, who were one of the main factors of early qualification of Team Melli to the Qatar World Cup,

There is no question about the technical abilities or performance of Khalilzadeh, but his place in Team Melli is threatened by the bad relationship with Queiroz. The issue came to the surface after the defender gave an interview that was critical. This defender’s opinion about how he can affect the future of the defensive composition of the Team did not set well with Queiroz and Khalilzadeh like many other players before was banished from Team Melli.

Queiroz, unlike his predecessor Dragan Skočić, has zero tolerance for any type of opposition. In that sense,  it is quite likely that will make Khalilzadeh will be watching the World Cup games on TV rather than defending the three colors jersey. The Portuguese man will most probably see the return of players such as Seyed Majid Hosseini, Morteza Pouraliganji, and even Roozbe Cheshmi.

Team Melli will leave for Austria next week to play two preparatory games against Uruguay and Senegal under Carlos Queiroz. While Uruguay has published the name of the squad for the match against Iran last week, FFIRI has not finalized its list.

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.

Khalilzadeh and Hosseini are off injury list.

Team Melli’s next match against Korea Rep. in 13 days’ time will witness the availability of two key players.

Shojaá  Khalilzadeh and Majid Hosseini, both injured playing for their clubs, will be available for selection. The fact that Khalilzadeh’s injury was not serious as initially thought, gave Skocic positive news and quite a relief.

With Kananizadegan’s suspension, Siavash Yazdani unavailable due to Military service, the backline of the team looked suspect and a serious source of concern by Dragan Skocic in recent days, The Croat Head Coach was closely following the situation of his players for the matches against South Korea and Lebanon, two matches in which a victory or at least a draw against Korea and a victory against Lebanon will guarantee Team  Melli, top finish in the table.

Contrary to KayseriSpor’s statements about Majid Hosseini’s deteriorating condition, the Team Melli defender returned to the field in last week’s Turkish Premier League and played for his team for 90 minutes. Skocic, would have picked Omid Nourafkan to play in the central defense although Nourafkan has limited experience playing in that defensive role. Hence the availability of Majidi Hosseini is assuring.

Unlike years ago when Team Melli defenders outnumbered players in the midfield and attack, lately not many players have been selected for the squad in the defensive line.  Paulo Bento, the Portuguese coach of South Korea, recently stated in an interview that his team, despite qualifying for the World Cup, is looking to win the next two remaining games and intends to take the top of the group and will play with all its might.

The perfect record of Skocic continues as Iran claims another 3 points.

Team Melli defeated UAE 1-0 in Dubai in a dramatic match full of action and controversies. The goal was scored by Man of the Match Mehdi Taremi from a spectacular pass from Sardar Azmoun. The win puts Iran comfortably at the top of Group A with a two points cushion over their next opponents South Korea.

Team Melli was far from firing on all cylinders. It was an amazing contrast between the last game against Iraq. The hero of that match was Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who could not put a foot right in this match against UAE and he was wasteful and profligate. Taremi wasted a couple of very good easy chances in this half which could have reduced the pressure on the team if he had opened the scoring. The UAE did embark on a few offensive moves but in reality, they hardly bothered Beiranvand in goal.

The solid defenders in the center of Team Melli’s defense had a marvelous day as both Kananizadegan and Khalizadeh played a classy game with confidence and ability. On the right, Sadegh Moharrami was also shinning. His accelerating and ball control was immaculate. On the left halfback, Nourafkan, who was one of the star players in the previous lineup, was shaky and nervous. He got a yellow card for a foul and m, minutes later he repeated a similar foul from behind but the Australian referee elected not to award him a second card and a dismissal to the disgust and protest of the UAE Players.

In the midfield, it was clear that there is a lack of creativity and dearth of quality in supplying the balls to the forwards. Jahanbakhsh was having an off day, Nourollahi was not at his best, Ezatollahi was far too slow to be effective and focused on his defensive duties more, while Amiri huffed and puffed to no avail. The two schemers of the team, Gholizadeh and Saman Ghoddos were warming the bench.

On the whole, the performance of the team was disappointing in the first half which ended 0-0.

In the second half, Nourafkan was pulled out, perhaps to avoid a second yellow, and Gholizadeh was introduced. This substitution gave a completely different complexion to the team. The nifty winger was a delight to watch going through the UAE defense like a knife through butter.

The highlight of the match occurred on the hour, While Iran was dominant, the only instance of the match when Ali Makhbout managed to beat the trap and Khalizadeh and was going to score, Shojaa pulled him from the back just outside the box. The referee pulled the red card as a result of denying the UAE forward the chance to score. After a lot of discussions and drama, and while Azmoun was being withdrawn to replace him with a central defender, Team Melli rejoiced when the VAR declared that the original pass to Mabkhout came from an offside position. The climate of the situation suddenly turned to a non-event and Shojaa’s red card was rescinded with a free kick awarded to Team Melli.

The goal scored by Taremi in the 69th minute was a work of art between him and Azmoun. Some quick passes outside the box initiated by Taremi found Azmoun on his left. Sardar measured his return pass to his onrushing partner Taremi to perfection. Taremi controlled Azmoun’s pass, saw the UAE Goalkeeper rushing towards him, and sent his ball away from the Keeper’s body into the empty net. 1-0 for Iran. Taremi is an amazing player, he misses an open goal yet he scores the spectacular!

Near the end, there was a penalty given to Team Melli as a result of a foul on Taremi in the box. Sardar Azmoun took the penalty and feebly shot at Khusaif in UAE goal, who had no problem saving it. A penalty wasted.

In the end, the miss did not matter as the UAE could not do much to score and Iran won 1-0. Although the performance of the team was far from satisfactory in the hot and humid weather of Dubai, winning while not playing at your best is one of the signs of champions. The big test, however, is in five days’ time in Azadi Stadium.

As for the UAE which was unable to end their long winless run against Team Melli, the result leaves them stranded on two points from their three outings, considerably raising the stakes ahead of their clash with Iraq on Tuesday, the same day Iran will meet the Korea Republic in a top of the cable clash.

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.