SEOUL, South Korea (AP) – As Japan and South Korea begin perfecting for the World Cup with a high-profile warm-up against Brazil next month, there are concerns in Iran that the tallest team in the Asia has been slowed down from scoring with her preparations.
Iran is in Group B with England and the United States at the World Cup, which kicks off on November 21 in Qatar. But while there have been reports of a June friendly with New Zealand and there is talk of a potential match with Canada, so far Iran has not confirmed its warming commitments.
“There seems to be no concrete plan,” Afshin Ghotbi, Iranian national team coach since 2009-11, told The Associated Press. “Time is of the essence and preparation is vital to Iran’s success.
“Most of the teams have already organized the matches and many good opponents are no longer available. Iran urgently needs to organize adequate meetings in view of the World Cup “.
There has been criticism within Iran about the lack of movement so far, with a Tehran Times editorial last month titled: “Iran wastes a golden opportunity as ever.” The editorial hoped for greater urgency when the football federation meets to choose a new president on May 10.
Interim President Mirshad Majedi said no games will be announced until details are final.
As the country is subject to international sanctions, attracting teams to Tehran or traveling overseas can be more complex for Iran than its Asian rivals.
Ghotbi wants to see Iranian players like Medhi Taremi at FC Porto and Sardar Azmoun, with Germany’s Bayer Leverkusen, with every possible chance to succeed in Qatar.
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Iran, number 21 in the FIFA rankings and currently coached by Dragan Skocic, have qualified for five previous World Cups but have never made it past the first round.
“I faced many of these challenges during my tenure, as well as those that came before and after me,” Ghotbi said. “It’s frustrating because Iran has a golden generation of players and if they have the best support and preparation, they can reach their true potential on the world stage.”
Carlos Queiroz, Ghotbi’s successor as head coach, complained about the quality of the opposition Iran faced before the 2018 World Cup, when he prepared for matches against Turkey, Lithuania, Sierra Leone, Algeria, Tunisia. and Uzbekistan.
“If you copy the preparations for the last four World Cup, you are not going anywhere. It’s a simple conclusion, ”Queiroz said in 2017. At the same time, seven Iranian players took to social media to ask the country to emulate South Korea when it came to preparing.
This time around, South Korea, drawn in Group H alongside Portugal, Uruguay and Ghana, will face Brazil in Seoul on 2 June and then face Chile four days later and Paraguay on 10 June.
Japan will begin preparations for Group E, which includes Germany, Spain and Costa Rica or New Zealand, by playing against Brazil and Paraguay in the first week of June.
Saudi Arabia also qualified from Asia and Qatar automatically gets a seat in the tournament as a guest. Australia and the UAE will meet in an Asian playoff for the right to challenge fifth-placed South America for another place in Qatar.
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