1990 World Cup Qualifying Campaign

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    1990 World Cup Qualifying Campaign

    Following the 1988 Asian Championship, Iran began preparation for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers with a friendly game against Japan in what would prove to be Dehdari’s last game in charge. In what would be Iran’s first match in Azadi (formerly Aryamehr) Stadium in three years, Iran twice came from behind to tie Japan 2-2 thanks to goals by Pious and an own goal.



    Prior to the game, Iranian tabloids had severely criticized Dehdari for his weak selections and performance (in spite of winning the bronze medal), going so far as questioning his professionalism for voicing his objections to the ref for Kermani Moghaddam’s disallowed goal against Saudi Arabia. During the Japan friendly, instead of cheering for Iran, many fans in the stadium chanted against Dehdari, some going as far as throwing snow balls at him. Following the match Iran began getting ready for the 1990 World Cup qualifiers in a group with Bangladesh, China and Thailand with China appearing to be the main obstacle for advancement. Even then the media would not relent with some of them publishing that during practices hardly any players had even broken into a sweat and that perhaps they were even putting on pounds as opposed to losing them. It was under such circumstances that while Dehdari did not resign from his position, however, he announced that due to health reasons he would not be accompanying the team for its away games against Thailand and Bangladesh. Vatankhah would act as interim coach. Also unavailable was Iran’s dominant forward, Farshad Pious, who at the time was playing his club soccer in Qatar. Initially it seemed as if Abedzadeh would also miss the match due to missing practices with the national team although Vatankhah would recall him.

    In the opening game, away against Thailand, Iran managed to beat their hosts 3-0, while missing many other opportunities throughout the game, notably Kermani Moghaddam’s shot from inside the box with the keeper glues to the near post – which bounced off the crossbar and out of bounds. Iran first got on the board following Zarrincheh’s cross and Bavi’s header. Another foray into their host’s territory would provide Ghayeghran with a perfect feed for him to convert one of his trademark thunderous shots from outside the box and double the lead. Garousi, a second half sub, would round off the scoring after a quick give and go with Namjoo Motlagh.



    The next game was also away, against Bangladesh. While on paper this seemed to be another easy win, however, Bangladesh created all sorts of problems for Iran on the pitch. Early in the game and with the score tied at zero, Bangladesh missed a penalty kick, striking the post. Late in the first half, Eftekhari’s shot bounced off of the post only for Bavi to head in the rebound. In the second half, Ansarifar took advantage of Namjoo Motlagh’s pinpoint pass to score Iran’s second goal. Bangladesh managed to cut the lead in half in the 70th minute and from that point on defending the lead became the main focus. Eventually Iran managed to squeeze out a 2-1 win which while resulted in maximum points but did little for goal differential. The return game in Tehran was even worse with blind and unorganized attacks. Nearly 80 minutes of aimless attacking lead to nothing, until Marfavi, a second half sub and yet-to-shine forward scored off of a header. Iran would follow it up with a second goal which would be waved off by the referee to give Iran a close 1-0 win.






    Dehdari’s refusal to accompany the team, combined with the possibility of a 1st round elimination, the IFF finally took action and Mehdi Monajati was hired as national team coach. Monajati kept most of the roster but added players such as midfielder Ashouri and red hot forward from the relatively unknown Shahin Ahvaz (who would cause an upset by eliminating Persepolis in the Hazfi Cup semifinals en route to their championship), Farzad Ahakpour. He demanded that the IFF set up friendlies before the next game against Thailand and got his wish with a four game tour of the Soviet Union. Unfortunately three of the games of the tour were canceled and Iran ended up only playing the selection of Kazakhstan, what would now be their national team. Iran would win this lone game of the tour with a 2-1 score with goals by Bavi and Garousi.

    Monajati’s first competitive game came at Azadi Stadium against Thailand in a game that the fluidity of Iran’s game was truly impressive. Iran would obtain the same scoreline as the away game while Pious was also recalled to the team and would not disappoint. In the first half, Pious took advantage of a splitting pass by Eftekhari to open the scoring. Before halftime Namjoo Motlagh would find himself one on one with the keeper although his shot would be parried away only for Garousi to tap in the rebound. In almost a carbon copy of his first goal, Pious would receive a ball from Ansarifar and score the third goal for an ultimate 3-0 win.




    Monajati would set up a month long camp, initially in Tehran and then in Azarbaijan to have players cope to the cold climate they would be facing in China. Friendly matches with club teams were set up on a daily basis and consisted of three 30-minute period games. During one such game against Vahdat of Tehran, Mehti Abtahi was observed and then called up to the training camp. Ansarifar also seemed to be scoring at will during such scrimmages. Everything seemed to be going according to plan until two unexpected disasters struck. Ayatollah Khomeini, already hospitalized for about a week finally gave up the fight and passed away. This prompted the whole country to come to a standstill and for the AFC to postpone the remaining qualifiers for a month. The training camp would shortly afterwards resume.

    The second disaster happened just days before the away game against China. Without any explanation, the IFF announced that Sirous Ghayeghran, Mojtaba Moharrami and Morteza Fonoonizadeh were dismissed from camp. The only justification that the IFF gave was disciplinary reasons, but soon rumors began to spread that the actual reason was that during the tour of the Soviet Union, the named players had gone out and had a few alcoholic drinks. Regardless of the truth to these rumors, days before the toughest game of the group, Monajati had lost a solid chuck of his team. Ghayeghran was the inspirational team captain and playmaker, Moharrami would go on to be voted as Asia’s best left back in one year’s time, and Morteza Fonoonizadeh was a constant presence in the national team’s defense for years. With no time for finding suitable replacements, Iran headed to China with an inexperienced squad that in all likelihood had not even once played together as a team. Abedzadeh would start in goal while in defense were Mehdi Fonoonizadeh, Khakpour (first cap), Hasanzadeh (second cap) and Taghavi (third cap). In midfield Kermani Moghaddam, Abtahi, Namjoo Motlagh and Eftekhari lined up while up front were Bavi and Pious, who also served as captain.

    The absence of a true playmaker was very evident. Initially Iran a good chance in the 1st half with Kermani Moghaddam’s header rattling the left post but otherwise it was mostly China attacking. The Chinese had a good chance from a quick shot inside the box that went high. They came close again when a Chinese player received a bouncing ball and with his back to the goal and Abedzadeh rushing out to defend, his overhead kick went barely wide of the open net. Iran seemed to be out of offensive ideas and simply hoped to hold on for a 0-0 tie but it was not to be. In the 74th minute, the ever-increasing Chinese attacks yielded results. A cross to the near post was met with an Iranian and Chinese player both diving towards goal for the header in the sic-yard box. The Chinese player won the battle and flicked the ball over to the far post past Abedzadeh The ball hit the far post and trickled over the line for China’s first goal. Almost immediately Monajati went for a substitution, bringing out an ineffective Bavi and replacing him with Garousi. During the 15 or so minutes that Garousi was on the field he created two chances, something that the team as a whole had stopped doing for some time. His first was a shot from outside the box that hit the side netting while the second was his crisscrossing dribble inside the box which ended when he was stripped of the ball. While he did take an obvious dive after his dispossession, hoping for a penalty kick call, but very predictably he didn’t get one. Minutes later China got their second goal. A cross from almost the exact spot of the first found its way to the far post. Abedzadeh came out a few steps to intercept but halfway there backpedaled towards goal. A Chinese player was absolutely no defender on him acrobatically buried a diving header past Abedzadeh. A tired Pious was replaced with Ansarifar as a token appearance by the latter but the damage had already been done and Iran would lose the game 2-0.






    With only a week separating the return game in Tehran, Monajati went to work, juggling players in different positions. The lineup that took the field in Azadi was very attack oriented as Iran now needed to win by a large margin in order to negate a possible huge victory by China over Thailand in their final game. Iran’s lineup consisted of: Abedzadeh, Zarrincheh (who very early on would leave due to injury and give his spot to Moradi), Hasanzadeh, Mehdi Fonoonizadeh, Abtahi, Namjoo Motlagh, Eftekhari, Kermani Moghaddam, Ansarifar, Garousi and Pious (captain). In the words of the Chinese coach, the first 15 minutes of this game was exceptional play by Iran and the constant early pressure yielded two goals during this stretch. After a goalmouth scramble in which a Pious header fell to Garousi, only a reaction save by the Chinese keeper prevented Iran from taking the lead. The Chinese cleared the ball only to have Ansarifar knock it back in the box. Garousi slightly redirected the ball with a shot past the Chinese keeper for Iran’s first goal. Two minutes later Ansarifar’s zigzagging run ended with him being taken down outside the box. Eftekhari nailed a perfect freekick over the Chinese wall for a 2-0 lead. As the half wore down so did the standard of play with Iran struggling to regain its composure and so the halftime whistle came as a blessing. In the 2nd half once again Iran started attacks on goal similar to the beginning of the 1st half. Early in the half, a through-ball down the right sideline had Kermani Moghaddam chasing the ball with a Chinese defender at his side and finally near the corner flag he one-timed a cross. Pious met this cross perfectly with a downward header that evaded a defender and the goalkeeper’s fruitless dive. With a 3-0 lead, things looked good and if this result held, China would have to beat Thailand 3-0 to have a better goal difference than Iran.

    But it would not stay as such. Once again Iran lost composure and individuality took over the game. As an example, a perfect cross was greeted by Pious by an unneeded and poorly executed bicycle kick that almost went widely wide. China finally got on the board when Eftekhari was called for a handball inside the box and the Chinese scored from the spot. Almost directly off of the restart, the Chinese stole the ball and crossed in the box, which was perfectly headed into the upper corner. Late in the game Monajati sent in Bavi for Garousi. Bavi, having seen his reign of national team service in jeopardy, upped his game and came out more aggressive than before. He nearly gave Iran a fourth goal off of a thunderous header but the Chinese keeper tipped it away for a corner kick. The game finally ended 3-2, meaning that any win against Thailand would assure China’s advancement. They promptly beat Thailand 2-0 to advance and eliminate Iran.







    I went to Sharif University. I'm a superior genetic mutation, an improvement on the existing mediocre stock.
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    Pius, Abedzadeh, Kermani Moghadam, and Ghayeghran were the gods of that generation.

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    Thanks for this post.
    Hard to believe that there were times when we won only 1-0 against Bangladesh in front of our home crowd. You can see the big progress that Iranian football made in the course of the 1990s. In general, the period between 1980-1990 are dark years of our football, which most of the - me too - post-revolutionary children do not know. It makes me proud to see that we are now a team that has not only made this progress, but has become a good team in world football, which brings on good days, even Argentina to the brink of defeat. These posts always reminds me what we have reached.

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    Quote Originally Posted by PersianLegion View Post
    Pius, Abedzadeh, Kermani Moghadam, and Ghayeghran were the gods of that generation.
    This post without Moharrami is worthless.
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    I read an interview with Monjati last year in which he talks about the suspensions. For starters he says it was 5 players, not 3. I would imagine the other 2 were lesser players who wouldn't have played anyway and that's why their cutting didn't make much noise. While he doesn't give the reason why they were cut, he gives a reason why they weren't cut, in that he stresses they were some of the most disciplined and hard working players he had in camp thus implying other factors (such as the ones mentioned above) played a role in their cutting.
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    Real dissapointment. Political involvement in Iran penetrate and dictate every aspect of society.
    Who in their right mind would send home 3 of the most influential players on their team. Same scenario in 1993 qualifications with Gholampour in goal alowing goals because of political reasons.
    Great post and thank you.

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    Freaking IFF and IR. They cost us on missing so many world cups. So many players that could have shone in 1982, 1986 and 1990.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ararat Tehran View Post
    Real dissapointment. Political involvement in Iran penetrate and dictate every aspect of society.
    Who in their right mind would send home 3 of the most influential players on their team. Same scenario in 1993 qualifications with Gholampour in goal alowing goals because if political reasons.
    Great post and thank you.
    What was the deal with Golampour? I thought he was in goal due to a injury to Abedzadeh.
    I went to Sharif University. I'm a superior genetic mutation, an improvement on the existing mediocre stock.
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    Quote Originally Posted by KC McElroy View Post
    What was the deal with Golampour? I thought he was in goal due to a injury to Abedzadeh.
    Yes I thought so too. And to be honest, from what I remember, Gholampour was fantastic in the first round of qualifiers but somehow managed to screw up in the second round.

    Btw great post KC McElroy! much appreciated

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    Quote Originally Posted by KC McElroy View Post
    What was the deal with Golampour? I thought he was in goal due to a injury to Abedzadeh.
    There was definitely some politics involved. I can't remember the exact details but read in several interviews. His performances were anything but normal.

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