The prospects of Javanan Team (Iran U20) in AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2023

The young Iranian football team Javanan, has qualified from the difficult group stage in AFC U20 Asian Cup™ Uzbekistan 2023 to set a quarterfinal match against Iraq and a good chance to make it all the way to the final. Iran needs to beat Iraq on 11th March to qualify for the  2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia. The top four teams of the tournament will qualify for FIFA Championship besides Indonesia who automatically qualified as hosts. Saudi Arabia is the title holder, having won the title in 2018.

The U20 team was formed with the usually chaotic and disorganized methods of FFIRI. There were many obstacles most of which are repetitious and have not been solved for long years. The worst scenario is when major clubs refuse to release players to the Uwo national team, or if they reluctantly agree, they make life hell for the selected player and the U20 coaching staff in the hope that the coaches will get tired from bargaining and drop the player from the squad!

Like Team Melli, the Javanan team was at the peak of Asian Football in the 70s. Iran’s youth won four titles in a row in 1973,74,75 and 1976. Such a feat has never been repeated again, and 1976 was the last time Iran tasted success.

This U20 team is no different from the rest since the revolution, hastily gathered, and struggling on and off the field, with a lack of a long-term program like the one other federations set up.

As for the coach Samad Marfavi, he has changed jobs 15 times since he retired from active football to become a coach. Like many ex-footballers in Iran who turned to coaching, his qualification and training to be a coach were to the absolute minimum and not up to international standards. He would be excused if the team does not do well, however, it will be a good exposure for him that might change his own chances to develop.

The three group matches starting with a narrow win against Qatar 1-0, a loss to Australia 2-3, and a win against Vietnam 3-1 ensured Iran’s qualification. From the technical point of view, there was nothing new that the observers took from the 3 matches. Strong and at times exceptional individual skills versus poor teamwork, poor defense, and the chronic Achilles heel of Iran’s football, the slow pace and reaction of the players. It has become a cliche amongst the commentators to label Iranian teams as slow. It is a fact that even the most ardent fan cannot deny, but such tactics and mindset have to start much earlier than the Javanan. This is where grassroots football must improve and coaches who are qualified, skillful, and competent are assigned to the grass root teams to teach the new generations the fundamentals of modern football.

However, that is not to say that Samad Marfavi cannot improve the team as there are many aspects that can and should be improved. Transitions and counterattack moves are two tactics that must be improved. The Wastefulness and profligacy of some players should be addressed too by the head coach. There are one or two players who frankly do not belong to the team. Mental agility and strength, another shortfall of Iranian footballers in general is. Marfavi needs to work on that.

Saying that the U20 team showed some delightful touches and individual skills in Fergana to endear themselves to the Uzbeck crowds. Individual talents and physical attributes remain the strong points of this team

As of now, it is might be wishful thinking to claim the title after 47 years, however,  the hope is always on one or two brilliant young players to use their individual skills and artistry to lead Iran to a win and the AFC Asian Cup U20.

Top 5 individual performances

Mohammad Amin Hazbavi
Saeed Saharkhizan  در فضای مجازی تصویر اشتباهی از الهامی ارائه می‌‎دهند/ امیدوارم جواب اعتماد مرفاوی را بدهم
Milad Kor
Adib Zarei
Erfan Ghorbani