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Thank Goodness: Iran Exits World Cup

June 25th, 2018 · No Comments · Fifa, Football, Russia 2018, soccer, World Cup

Iran is out of Russia 2018, and I have heaved a sigh of relief.

Just did it again. A big sigh of relief.

It has nothing to do with international politics.

It has everything to do with the guys representing Iran on the football fields of Russia and all about the ugliest soccer played by any national team ranked in the Fifa global top 50.

And not having to look at that soccer sewage again before 2022.

It is about a commitment to cynical, violent soccer. It is about taking away the stylish moments of dashing soccer, never mind the beauty.

It is about a coach who really ought to know better than to foist a style and an ethos that is like fingernails raking a chalkboard.

It also is about getting the country’s football authorities to end their clear commitment to negative soccer, to sitting with 11 on defense and hoping to snake a goal in the final minutes.

Which should begin with the ouster of coach Carlos Queiroz, the architect of this soccer abomination.

Queiroz really ought to be better than this.

He has coached Real Madrid and the national teams of three countries: South Africa, his native Portugal and Iran. He was an assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United and he was thought to be a leading candidate to coach the USMNT, a time or two. And he was the man who authored the Q-Report — a sort of 1998 guidebook to the federation’s Project 2010 — which aimed to make the U.S. a world soccer power in 12 years. Ha.

Quieroz clearly has grown cynical since then.

He took over an Iran side that had failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup and decided that Iran had lots of rugged defenders but no real skill players, given that the swashbuckling Ali Daei was far past his prime, and Quieroz developed tactics that called for defending, bumping; defending, tripping; defending, flopping … and hoping for a goal, somehow.

Those tactics worked fine in the Asian Football Confederation, where his Iran qualified easily for Brazil 2014 and Russia 2018. Ahead of this tournament, they won six, drew four and lost none and scored 10 goals and conceded only two in their AFC group to qualify miles ahead of runner-up South Korea.

But once Iran graduated from the clumsy sides of the AFC and got to the big shows … everyone could see what the side had become: The Worst of All Possible Football Teams — angry roughnecks infamous for crowding referees (and even bumping them, as happened in their match tonight) and hacking down opponents … yet also renown for shameless diving.

They were impossible to watch with the slightest sympathy, and the great fear both this year and at Brazil was that they somehow would extend their stay to a fourth game — and had Iran beaten Portugal tonight, that wretched side would have reached the round of 16. It ended 1-1. (Thanks, Portugal.)

If I were an Iranian fan, once I got past the regret of defeat, I would wonder why my team never went forward until its place in the tournament was at stake … and agitate for a new coach who would allow some of these Euro-based Iranian players to see what they could do about attacking.

Like, for instance, the hottest Iranian scorer since Ali Daei, the 24-year-old Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who in 2017-18 became the first Asian to lead a major European league (the Netherlands’ Eredivisie) in scoring, with 21 goals for AZ Alkmaar.

Going forward. Becoming interesting perhaps. Or at least not repulsive. Shoot for the stars! Why not?

Instead, Iran was the most unwatchable team in Russia, the side all right-thinking soccer fans wanted on a plane back to Tehran tomorrow.



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