With the amount of preparation and spirit shown in the team, the question arises whether the team and squad was in Germany for vacation purposes, or for playing football. It has been almost one year since we played Queens Park Rangers, and it was obvious that most of the players in our team are not on par with European teams in terms of fitness and stamina. So what did the coaching staff do about this? They made sure that the players get a lot of frequent flyer mileage for their flights from Switzerland to Iran to Croatia back to Iran and then to Germany. At the World Cup however, our team was good enough to play football for 60 minutes and then concede goals. Too bad a game lasts 90 minutes.
Andranik Teymourian said that the coaching staff did their best for the team. The question is whether Teymourian is being sarcastic or he is a modest person easily satisfied?
Everyone who was around the team camp felt that there was a lot of tension in the air between the players and that they didn’t really get along. It was also obvious, that the players weren’t satisfied with the way the team was prepared. Several things come to my mind:
Why did non of the players raise their voice before the World Cup? Was the fear of getting left out that big? Was it worth to embarass themselves on international level and go down as one of the worst teams in tournament?
Was it that much of a burden for Branko to involve his key players with influence in the squad in his tactics and plans? The Serbian coach of Ghana Dujkovic involves his key players like Appiah and Essien in all decisions he makes. That’s why the team could handle the benching of Sammy Kuffour without disrupting the unity of the team. Generally all succesful coaches at this tournament give their players a big share of responsibility and treat them like players and adults and not like kids. Branko obviously didn’t do that or didn’t care about it really, otherwise it’s not understandable that Karimi criticised the coach, Mahdavikia and Rezaei were not happy with him either, and Ali Daei did basically whatever he wanted to do. If it wasn’t in his hands to lead the team, but almighty conspirative forces were behind it, why didn’t he step down before the World Cup but allowed shame to be put on his work in Iran?
We should have been prepared for this failure after the debacle against Macedonia’s B-Team selection. We were blinded about a promising squad selection and good friendlies before the tournament, however given Croatia’s failure to get past Australia and win a game against either Japan and Australia, our performance in a friendly has to be considered relatively.
The obvious weaknesses we had over the years, in terms of lacking a playmaker in central midfield, no left wing attack, problems to score from open play, were exposed at the World Cup. Iran has maybe the quality to turn the game around against Oman, Qatar and Jordan, but certainly not against Mexico and Portugal and apparently not even Angola.
What big difference this World Cup turns out compared to 8 years ago, where a fantastic preparation programme by Ivic with a lot of work in the team made us proud of our national team and their performance. 8 years later however, there’s nothing to cherish about this team and it feels as if the team went to Germany to see the country and have a good time and nothing else. The hope remains that the federation learns once in their lifetime from a failure. Given that it would be the first time in our history, I strongly doubt it.
P.S. Much love to all Iranian fans from around the world, who supported the national team, specially to all friends in Frankfurt. If our team had half of your creativity and passion, it would have turned out different.