2022 FIFA World Cup qualification Iraq against Iran Preview
Team Melli Talk: Hello everybody and welcome, to our first-ever live edition of Team Melli Talk on Twitter radio. I am your host Art Eftekhari. And for this special edition, I am joined by Adel Askarian of TIFA, The International Football Agency in The Netherlands. Adel, welcome back, it is great to have you on the show.
We know the World Cup qualifier coming up between Iran and Iraq, will be played on the 14th of November. And because of the intervention of FIFA, the match will be played has been moved from Basra in Iraq, to Amman in Jordan. The game will be played in the Amman International Stadium. Now my first question for you Adel, this is a pretty expected question and a topic that has been mentioned on the previous occasion. How are you looking at this World Cup qualifier being moved to Jordan, do you feel this could be an advantage for Team Melli or do you believe it’s still going to be a tough game, regardless of where it’s going to be played?
TIFA: Honestly, I believe it’s going to be an advantage for the Team Melli. Why? One, in terms of the facilities. With all due respect, I believe the facilities in Amman are of greater value than the ones they have in Iraq. And second, although there will be a lot of supporters in Jordan to support Iraq because I believe that a lot of Iraqi people will travel to Amman to watch the game, still it isn’t home. So, also for the players, it’s going to be a neutral place where both of the teams will play. So with that being said, this is an advantage for Team Melli.
Team Melli Talk: From my point of view, there are a lot of Iraqi who already live in Jordan and some will travel. At the end of the day, I still believe it is an advantage for Iraq and an away game for Team Melli. So moving on, now from one of our followers on Twitter, he had this to bring up: will this short time to prepare for a match be a problem for Team Melli? What do you think Adel?
TIFA: I mean, if you look at the level players we have, play on, I don’t expect it to be a problem. So my answer is no. I really believe it will come down to how good Marc Wilmots has prepared the boys for this match. Especially, with the last match, we don’t want to think about it.
Team Melli Talk: Excellent. We really hope they have good preparation and everything has got to go smooth to get a good result against Iraq. From our standpoint we just want Team Melli to get the victory and nothing more. As you said, we don’t want to talk about the preview match against Bahrain. But because of that result, we feel like we have more of that sense of urgency to get that victory. This is what our Team Melli footballers need to do, play with a lot of heart and find a way to win no matter what. Moving forward a bit now, the next topic is the 23 man roaster. I will go over it. At the Goalkeeper position, not too many surprises with Alireza Beiranvand, Rashid Mazaheri, and Payam Niazmand. Some will argue that Amir Abedzadeh from CS Marítimo should be in the line-up, however, that is something Marc Wilmots decided to make. There aren’t too many surprises at the Center Backs and the Wing Back positions. There is a contingent of Belgian players in the squad with Milad Mohammadi of KAA Gent, Omid Ebrahimi of KAS Eupen, and Kaveh Rezaei of Sporting Charleroi. So going over this roaster right now, in your opinion Adel, which do you feel is missing from this 23 men roaster that you would like to see in the squad?
TIFA: For me, Saeid Ezatolahi, I believe he is a key figure in this squad, a good number six. I was very surprised when I didn’t see his name in the squad, I didn’t get a chance to see why? So I believe this is something that is missing and I look forward to the strategy behind it. And what Wilmots has in mind to change. And hopefully, for us, in a positive way, but I am very concerned. The name that also isn’t in the squad, yet quite logical, is Alireza Jahanbakhsh which is logical since he moved to Brighton & Hove Albion F.C. in the English Premier League, he doesn’t play. So after seeing this, I thought to myself that it is surprising that Ezatolahi isn’t in the squad but Wilmots is aware of how the players are doing since he also did not select Jahanbakhsh. So, let’s hope for the best, but I am a bit concerned.
Team Melli Talk: I agree with you. It’s very easy for people to say that Jahanbakhsh is not there since he hasn’t been playing, he disappeared from Brighton. And even talking about Saeid Ezatolahi, he hasn’t been getting a lot of minutes lately with his club, so that’s a problem. I do feel like at the end of the day, with such a crucial World Cup qualifier, I would have been more comfortable to see Saeid Ezatolahi on the list. I am not going to be negative about it, but I would’ve liked to see him on it. Continuing with the 23 men on the roaster we continue with the defenders, Vouria Ghafouri, Milad Mohammadi, Morteza Pouraliganji, Hossein Kanaani, Mohammad Naderi, Majid Hosseini, and Ramin Rezaeian. As for the Midfielders, we have Ehsan Hajsafi, Ahmad Nourollahi, Masoud Shojaei, Omid Ebrahimi, Vahid Amiri, Ali Karimi, Mohammad Mohebi, and Ali Gholizadeh. So, with those Midfielders that I just mentioned, in your opinion Adel who does not belong in the squad? I will also mention the Forwards: Karim Ansarifard, Kaveh Rezaei, Mehdi Taremi, and Sardar Azmoun.
TIFA: For me, this is a bit bad to say, because I met the guy personally and really like him. But I believe Masoud Shojaei, in terms of age and also others who are 30 and up, shouldn’t be selected for the squad anymore. And why am I saying this? I believe that we have to build the next generation players as we have two years towards the World Cup. Hopefully, we do well at the World Cup, but we also need to have a vision for after. This is pretty much what we did here in Holland as well, we didn’t have a good squad, so what the current national coach did was selecting young players as today we are amongst the top of the world. If it was me, and I have nothing personal against Shojaei, but looking at the future, I would say pick more youngsters and allow them to deliver and develop at the highest stage. I believe with other players such as Azmoun, we have sufficient quality to qualify for the World Cup. But then you are also building for the World Cup and after.
Team Melli Talk: Well, what can we say, there is a lot of things we agree on as well. Looking at the roaster I see Masoud Shojaei is there, and he is 35 years old. From my point of view, he should not be called anymore. He has done a lot of good things for Team Melli. Also sticking to the topic of 23 men roaster, I know there were two of those players I was not happy with during the previous match, Ehsan Hajsafi and Karim Ansarifard. I do not want to see Hajsafi starting. I feel there are better options such as Omid Ebrahimi or Ahmad Nourollahi starting at the defensive midfield position. In your opinion, how crucial is the defensive midfield position going into the match against Iraq?
TIFA: It’s very crucial. The way Marc Wimots is playing, isn’t the most offensive style and it can’t be looking towards the World Cup, there are unfortunately much better teams in terms of quality. Looking at the defensive midfield position, it should be strong. That’s why it was a shock for me that Ezatolahi wasn’t selected. I believe Hajsafi and Ansarifard have been in the squad for a long time and quite honestly have they delivered what we hoped them to deliver? I believe now it is the time, and it is very bold, to start selecting new players towards the strategy of 2022 and onwards we have a strong and good team.
Team Melli Talk: Continuing on Adel with what you just said, I like your idea that Iran has to call up younger players to prepare the next generation. And when you mentioned Hajsafi and Ansarifard, yes they have many caps for the Team Melli, we appreciate everything they have done. One player I want to look at is Ali Golizadeh of Sporting Charleroi, he is young, 23, and a good Winger. Do you feel that his play is going to be key to winning against Iraq?
TIFA: I believe so, yes. In the sense that, he is a youngster and playing in Belgium, which is a good league, not the best league, but a good league. Again, it comes down to whether Marc Wimots has the guts to provide the opportunity to a youngster such as him and others. Because I believe that in the long-term it will pay-out. So right now, I don’t think he is the key player, but talking about players like him, yes, these players are the ones who in the long-term are going to deliver.
Team Melli Talk: We are getting closer to wrapping up this edition of Team Melli Talk on Twitter radio. Once again I would like to thank everyone for the support, I appreciate it. And of course now getting to the next topic at hand. Let’s hypothetically speaking, if Iran does lose against Iraq in Jordan, will this mean the end for Marc Wilmots with Iran?
TIFA: I don’t know if it is going to end, but it should be. Losing against Bahrain shouldn’t have happened, and losing against Iraq after each other, should be the message for the Federation that they need to continue with another coach. I don’t want it to happen as I like stability, especially at the Federation, but I believe that if he loses this one, this will happen.