Iran head coach could be local pick for FIFA World Cup

After Iran beat Serbia in the Volleyball Nations League to advance to the final, the country’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei congratulated the team on social media with a message titled “Good luck with an Iranian coach”.

A day later on Monday, the Iranian Football Association sacked Dragan Skocic, the Croatian coach who has led the national football team since February 2020.

Although these events are unrelated, the main candidates to replace Skocic four months before the World Cup in Qatar are Iranians.

After qualifying for the World Cup in January, ‘Team Melli’ are preparing for top-flight matches in Group B against England on November 21 and the United States eight days later. Iran will also face Wales on November 25.

A 2-1 defeat in a friendly against Algeria last month, Iran’s only warm-up game so far for the tournament, has increased the pressure on Skocic.

“The significance of the World Cup globally and in terms of national pride added to the urgency of the decision,” said Afshin Ghotbi, an Iranian-American coach who coached Iran’s national team from 2009 to 2011. Associated Press. “Especially with politically sensitive opponents like England and the United States.

“While the team qualified for the World Cup with ease, poor performances and poor results against strong opponents South Korea and Algeria led supporters and key players to lose faith in the coach.”

The national football association has considered whether Iran should be represented by a local in the same way England, USA and Wales have local coaches in Gareth Southgate, Gregg Berhalter and Rob Page. An appointment could be made this week.

Ghotbi, who was a member of the USA coaching staff at the 1998 World Cup when the team lost 2-0 to Iran, has been mentioned as a possible replacement for Skocic, with two other former coaches.

Despite reports that Ali Daei turned down the job, the country’s top international goalscorer is still on the IFF’s shortlist, along with Amir Ghaleneoi, who led the team from 2006 to 2008.

Former Iranian captain Javad Nekounam, a popular figure who has made more than 150 appearances for the country as a player and currently coaches leading club Foolad, is in contention. The same goes for Yahya Golmohammadi, who won two league titles with Tehran giants Persepolis, and Farhad Majidi.

If there is to be a foreigner in charge, it can be one of the two former coaches. Branko Ivankovic, another Croatian, led the team to the 2006 World Cup and is currently in charge of Oman. Former Real Madrid manager Carlos Queiroz took Iran to the last two world tournaments and is currently available after being released by Egypt.

Iran have failed to make it past the first round on five previous World Cup trips, but Ghotbi believes the football team can match their volleyball counterparts and make history. especially since the Middle East is hosting its first World Cup.

“It’s a tough group but it’s a group in which Iran can qualify for the knockout stage if the right decisions are made,” he said.

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