THE Iranian Football Federation turned to local coach Amir Ghalenoei following the inability of Branko Ivankovic to fully harness the potential of
the Iran national team at the FIFA World Cup finals in Germany last summer.
Fresh from his domestic success with Esteghlal, who he guided to the Iran Pro League title at the end of the 2005/06 season, Ghalenoei was charged with rejuvenating a demoralised squad and qualifying for the finals of the AFC Asian Cup.
Ghalenoei started his coaching career with Esteghlal Ahvaz in 2002 before joining Esteghlal 12 months later, guiding the Tehran club to second place in the league in his first season in charge. One year later the club finished third in the Iran Pro League before finally winning the title in Ghalenoei’s third and final year at the helm.
The 42-year-old (he will celebrate his 43rd birthday two days after the AFC Asian Cup kicks
off) has had to reinvigorate a squad that picked up only one point in Germany despite travelling to
the finals with high hopes of progressing to the knockout phase.
He has overseen the job of replacing veteran performers such as the legendary Ali Daei and central defender Yahya Gomohammadi, and the Iranians were unbeaten in the five qualifying matches played under the former striker.
Draws with Korea Republic and Syria saw the Ghalenoei era start off slowly, but a run of three wins in a row – including a 2-0 victory over the Koreans in Tehran on the final day of qualifying – highlight how well the new coach has adapted to working in the international arena.