Hit by lack of friendlies

Drawn in a group that also comprises Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Nigeria, Iran may be the least prepared of the competing teams. A club-versus-country row erupted between top clubs and the federation which saw only 11 home based players report for the national team’s preparatory camp in South Africa. But when the feud ended the Iranian federation couldn’t arrange any worthwhile international opponent for its team. Instead of testing its strength against quality rivals, Iran had to be content with playing against South African premier league sides in the warm-up matches. In the only international friendly it managed in a year, Iran lost to Guinea, not the strongest of opponents by any stretch of imagination.

While Argentina is expected to top the pool, it will be interesting to see which of the three from Nigeria, Bosnia and Iran takes the other spot.

Iran was impressive in the qualifying round, finishing ahead of South Korea as Carlos Queiroz, the former Real Madrid manager, built the team by attracting players from the Iranian Diaspora and the European league. The big catch was of course Reza Ghoochannejhad who scored the goal which ensured Iran’s passage into the World Cup.

But with his relations with the federation getting sour after blaming it for not arranging enough friendlies, Carlos Queiroz, bluntly told in a TV interview not to expect much from the team. “With such arrangement and programme failures, don’t expect much from Team Melli in Brazil. We will not make it to the next round because of the failure of the South Africa camp,” said the former South African and Portgual coach.