Tag: Srečko Katanec

Uzbekistan Tashkent

A Tale of Two Halves: Uzbekistan vs Iran, FIFA World Cup 2026 Qualifiers

  • The beautiful and unsightly face of Team Melli displayed in the match
  • An opportunity missed by Team Melli due to discipline failure
  • Srečko Katanec proves his quality in Tashkent

Team Melli drew a match in which they were 2 goals ahead against Uzbekistan in the FIFA World Cup 2026 qualifier in Tashkent Melliy Stadim. The match ended 2-2 draw, Ramin Rezaeian scoring the first in the 14th minute, while Taremi scored the second in the 37th in a game that was a tale of two contrasting halves.

The first half was dominated by Iran, showcasing a level of football that Team Melli hadn’t displayed in a long time. The team’s intricate passing, solid defending, and tactical discipline were commendable. The midfield was masterfully controlled by the dynamo, Saman Ghoddos, who also provided the assist for Mehdi Taremi’s second goal. The overall free-flowing football was a delight to watch.

Two well-played goals, first by Rezaeian who received a master pass from Sardar Azmoun, and then followed by Taremi doubling the lead in the 37th minute. this time by a perfectly weighted ball from Saman Ghoddis who had lots of credit as he robbed the ball before sending it to Taremi who finished masterfully.

However, the second half painted a completely different picture. It was dominated by Uzbekistan, capitalizing on the disciplinary collapse of Team Melli. The turning point was arguably the injury to the schemer, Saman Ghoddos. His replacement, Ali Karimi, failed to replicate Ghoddos’ impact on the game. The tactical discipline, especially at the back, was missing from Iran’s gameplay, and the two goals conceded were due to defensive coverage failure. The slowness of the defense was quite evident in this half.

Uzbek coach Katenec read the hand of Iran’s Ghalenoei masterfully in the second half. Implementing a pressing tactic and empowering his team with pacy and more effective players, Uzbekistan managed to score twice to settle the game. The match served as a reminder of the unpredictability of football, where fortunes can change in the blink of an eye.

One unfortunate side of Team Melli that we have been used to for years is the discipline. Mehdi Taremi and Ramin Rezaeian were masters in simulation and fake falls to a laughable degree. In particular that dive by Taremi in the box in the first half. The referee opted not to award him a yellow card despite the fact that it was a bookable offense. Another comical fall by Rezaeian on the second was even more laughable! Ghalenoei has yet to enforce his gentlemanly type of football. This is the ugly face of Team Melli that no one wants to see. This team is good enough in many aspects without the need for cheating.

Iran leads the table with four points ahead of Uzbekistan on goal difference.

The Croatian Legacy.

Croatian football coach Dragan Skocic (51) has been named Iran’s new coach, the football association announced there.

Rijeka’s Dragan Skocic has replaced Belgian Marco Wilmots on the bench of Iran following two consecutive defeats in qualifying for the FIFA 2022 World Cup against Bahrain (0-1) and Iraq (1-2).

According to the Iranian state news agency IRNA, Skocic has agreed to sign with the Iranian Football Federation until the end of the second round of the FIFA 2022 World Cup qualifications, or by June this year.

Another Croat on Iran bench

Skocic followed in the footsteps of Tomislav Ivic , Stanko Poklepovic , Miroslav Blazevic and Branko Ivankovic , all of whom managed the Iranian football team quite successfully.

“It is certainly an honor to be in the company of other great Croatian coaches. Croats are highly respected in Iran, so I’m really happy that I got the opportunity to be the coach of Iran, a great football nation,” says Skočić in an interview with HRT’s Ivan Dorian Molnar .

Skočić has been working in Iran since 2013 and has led four clubs, Malavan, Foolad, Knooneh be Knooneh and Sanat Naft.

“With three of the four teams I led, I made the greatest successes in their history. I think this was one logical sequence. I came up with something very tangible, and that is the position of the Iranian national team coach,” he added, noting that this is actually his biggest career challenge.

Iran “hunts” Bahrain and Iraq

Iran is currently ranked third in Group C of the second qualifying round with six points from four appearances.

Iraq tops with 11 points from five duels, the second is Bahrain with nine points from five appearances as well, with Hong Kong with five points and Cambodia with one point, and both teams also played five matches each.

The winners of all eight groups and the four best runner-up teams will compete in the third qualifying round.

Anton ‘Toni’ Usnik

Mladen Zganjer

“There will be a battle, the key matches are with Bahrain and Iraq. Both games are played in Tehran in front of a full stadium that seats 100,000 people. We have a lot of looks, I hope we pass the group. The key matches will be against my friend Srecko Katanec (current Iraq coach.). It will be interesting,” Skocic adds, pointing out that expectations are high, that everyone wants Iran to qualify for the FIFA World Cup  2022, and especially after a great performance at the last edition in Russia, where they almost passed the group with Spain, Portugal, and Morocco.

Skocic’s assistants will be Mladen Zganjer, former U-21 national team coach and Toni Usnik, who worked at the Slovenian national team headquarters.

Iran vs Iraq, a crucial match for Team Melli.

After climbing to Group C’s summit on Matchday Four, Iraq are set to host Team Melli in a game that looks set to provide yet another major test for both the foreign coaches. Iraq’s  Srečko Katanec’s and Iran’s Marc Wilmots.

Both the coaches had differing issues to deal with it be it with their federation or the players. Katanec time with Iraq has been uneasy, to say the least. There was a rumour of a half-hearted revolt in the squad with some players that Katanec did not pick for these qualifiers going on the social media and bad-mouthing the Slovenian coach.

However, with a history of managing three national teams (UAE, Slovenia and Iraq), Katanec is using his vast experience to deal with the difficult situation including the clause in the contract that will see him being terminated if he does not qualify from this group.

Marc Wilmots is quite safe and solid for Team Melli except for the small matter of paying his wages. The Iranian Federation, like before, procrastinate in paying the Team Melli coaches. There is always one or more justification and they wait until the last minute before paying the coach. This delay, however, meant that Wilmots was not willing to work with the squad until the finances were settled. The Belgian had very few training session with the squad (2 sessions before departure to Amman). His absence from Iran meant that the selection of players was trusted to his assistants although Wilmots have seen enough good performances by the two Belgian based players (Rezaei and Gholizadeh) to include them in the squad.


The two teams know each other quite well. They have met 27 times since their first encounter in Amjadieh Stadium in June 1962.  Iran has a clear edge in the head to head meeting with 16 wins, 7 draws and 4 defeats. 38 goals were scored by Iranians while Iraq has managed 19.

History aside, this meeting, although not a must-win for Team Melli, a defeat will make the task of the qualification so much difficult with Iraq having a 4 points advantage. Riding high following their last month’s 4-0 win over Cambodia, Iraq will be eager to add yet more momentum to their campaign

Marc Wilmots is sure to be acutely aware that his side can ill-afford a repeat of their Matchday Four defeat to Bahrain if they are to maintain their push to progress. That disappointing loss in Manama has left the Iranians – who after their trip to Jordan will not be in Asian Qualifiers action again until next March – occupying third place and needing to rebound in style so as to avoid slipping further off the pace.

The Loss in Manama exposed some tactical vulnerability in Wilmot’s line up and those shortfalls need to be addressed.

Iraq’s success came after an opening day draw with Bahrain and a 2-0 defeat of Hong Kong at home, results that have left the 2007 AFC Asian Cup champions well placed to progress from what is proving to be a closely contested Group C.

The regional rivals last met during the group stage of this year’s AFC Asian Cup where they drew 0-0, and while maintaining their current unbeaten record is sure to be at the forefront of Iraqi minds, head coach Katanec will be viewing Thursday’s fixture as an ideal opportunity to put yet further distance between his table-topping team and the chasing pack.

Venue: Amman International Stadium, Amman, Jordan
Kick-off: 17:00 (UTC +3)