The Hindu – MARGAO, From the day Iran touched down in Goa, there has been only one name on everyone’s lips — Mohammad Sharifi. Mentored by the legendary Ali Daei, the midfielder is known for his vision and range of passing and has been an influential presence. Iran too seemed mindful of his star power when it put up the 17-year-old in its opening press conference.
However, for the most part, the Iranians have been anything but individualistic. It has reflected in their two on-field performances thus far. Forward Younes Delfi has two goals and an assist, fellow striker Allahyar Sayyad two goals and Sharifi and Vahid Namdari a goal and an assist each.
“We are a team with players who have big hearts,” said Delfi after the win against Germany. “No one player can individually take a team to this level. We are all united in our goals.”
It is perhaps a trait which has percolated right from the top. The Iranian national team is helmed by the former Real Madrid manager Carlos Queiroz. The astute Portuguese has led a largely star-less Iran to back-to-back World Cup qualifications and in the process made it the leading football nation in Asia by a mile.
“When he has the time, Mr. Queiroz comes to our camps to check our players,” said Hossein Moradi, the team manager, who has been with age-group outfits for over 10 years. “But he doesn’t come looking for one player. Never. Instead, he comes to check the program of the coach, the training regimen, the coaching lessons etc.”
Amir Sedighi, the team’s media manager, even vouched that Queiroz would have watched Iran’s win over Germany. The senior Iran team played Russia in an international friendly the same time the colts played the Germans.
But he still insisted that Queiroz would have found time later to catch the action. If the coach had indeed done so, there was enough for him to be impressed with.
Still it can’t be denied that these teenagers belong to a generation which grows up trying to mimic star club footballers. Sharifi has modelled himself on Toni Kroos and wants to play for Real Madrid in the future.
Against Germany, Delfi almost succeeded in executing a near-replica of the trademark Cristiano Ronaldo looping free-kick and even declared that he would one day be “better than Cris!”
But for now there is only one star and that is the team of Iran.