Thu, 20 Jan 2022

TEHRAN, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- Iran's men's national team maintained its position as Asia's best ranked one in the latest FIFA world ranking announced on Nov. 18 on the back of their performance in the World Cup Asian qualifiers.

Domestically dubbed Team Melli, Iran has notched nine victories in its previous 10 matches in the Asian qualifiers, having also won two friendlies, under Croatian head coach Dragan Skocic, who was appointed in early February 2020, replacing Belgian Marc Wilmots.

Team Melli has also managed to maintain a 13-match unbeaten streak since Skocic's appointment and sits atop Group A of the Asian qualifier having garnered 16 points from six matches against Syria (1-0 and 3-0), Iraq (3-0), the UAE (1-0), South Korea (1-1) and Lebanon (2-1).

Another win in the upcoming match against Iraq in Tehran will secure the Iranian side's berth in the World Cup, making the remaining Group A matches nothing but dead rubber for Iran.

Experts maintain that a number of factors are at play behind the scenes of the great performance by Skocic's men, namely a well-promoted solidarity, the homogeneity of and harmony among the entire team -- including the main and substitute players as well as the technical staff, mutual trust between the members, the valuable experience gained in previous matches and the players' great motivation.

SPIRIT-LIFTING

Donya-e-Eqtesad Persian language daily wrote in an analysis that it appears as if the Croatian head coach has managed to lift the team's spirit. The players like him and approve of his abilities in their interviews. There is a mutual trust between the players and their coach, which is the most needed thing at the time being.

Praising the homogeneity of the Iranian side, it added there is a balance among different parts of the team, be it the technical staff or the players. The Iranian side has good goalkeepers, defenders, midfielders, wingers and forwards as well as good discipline. The players are experienced and know that they should not underestimate any rival.

In addition, the analysis said, each Iranian player is brimming with the motivation to shine in the main lineup as they maintain that Team Melli's failure to qualify for the World Cup will deprive a generation of brilliant players from the opportunity to gain international fame and recognition.

On Team Melli's successful performance, retired Iranian football striker Hossein Kalani told Mehr News Agency that the side comprises unassuming players and a head coach who knows how to manage tensions, marginal issues and his squad.

He added the entire team feels responsible when it needs to score, and, when the mission is accomplished, all players defend their goal.

Kalani described Skocic as a humble man, wishing he had been appointed sooner, as the team under him is demonstrating palpable and positive tactical changes.

In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Iranian football manager Alireza Marzban said the team's performance is indicative of the good coordination and harmony among its members.

He described a sense of national solidarity among the Iranian players as the most important factor in their success, saying it increases their motivation and, thus, quality.

Lauding Skocic's role in promoting solidarity among the members, Marzban said the other members of the technical staff, such as assistant coaches Karim Baqeri and Vahid Hashemian -- both retired Iranian players, are faithful and effective people.

The coach, he added, has gained a good understanding of the players and ensured effective coordination and harmony among them.

Among the famous players in the Iranian squad are Mehdi Taremi (Porto), Sardar Azmoun (Zenit Saint Petersburg), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord) and Saman Ghoddos (Brentford).

SECRET INGREDIENT

To top it all, however, football is a passion among Iranian youths, making them willing to spend several hours a day playing the game in any place allowing them to set up the minimums simulating a football field.

The football industry in Iran fails to be as developed as those in other major Asian countries, such as China, Japan, South Korea and Saudi Arabia. Insufficient infrastructure, schools and funding cause many young talents in each generation to go down the drain, not having the opportunity to shine and be seen.

The boiling pot of passion for the game, nevertheless, is such full to the brim that, despite some evaporating, talents galore keep pouring from it onto the Iranian football industry.

The passion is not geographically-bound though players in each corner of the country, be it the north, south, east or west, feature more or less different and, yet, distinguishing characteristics.

Up until two decades ago, most parents would strongly disagree if their children wanted to choose football as their career, which was another reason for the wastage of talents. But now, parents encourage their younglings to pursue football professionally owing to the popularity of the game, the money in it and the fame it can bring.

This amount of passion and attention has, however, led to a drought both in terms of talents and, thus, investments in other fields, attracting the major part of the attention to football.

For Iranians, Team Melli is the point where all the passion previously sown is supposed to come to fruition. It is as if the national team is in a way the country's army.

This is the general attitude, analysts say, maintained by both the players and the fans, and this passion seems to be the secret ingredient in the recipe contributing to Team Melli's relative success in international arena over the past years.

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