December 1, 2022
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Sportske.jutarnji.hr – SPLIT, Portugal’s Carlos Queiroz will lead Iran at the World Cup, his assistant will be the former national team representative Javad Nekounam, who is being prepared as a successor, and Dragan Skočić was fired two months before the World Cup in Qatar. He was removed by the new president of the Association, Mehdi Taj.

Croatian coach Vinko Begović knows the conditions in Iran very well because he worked there from 2000 to the end of 2019, with minor interruptions when he was in the UAE and Qatar. He led the biggest clubs like Persepolis, but also led smaller ones like Foolad, Pas Hamedan, Gol Gohar. He was also the coach of the Olympic team. He says that Iranian journalists contacted him to comment on current events. Begović from Split, who is 74 years old, recalled that Tomislav Ivić was also dismissed before the World Cup in 1998.

– Four months ago, I told Skočić: “Be prepared that they won’t let you lead the national team at the World Cup.” It was clear to me. I mentioned to him the example of the late Ivic, who was removed two weeks before the 1998 WC in France. He replied that he was aware of that, but he would continue to work as if he was going to Qatar. He survived a coup, but new elections took place in the Federation there, on the eve of which Taj said clearly and loudly that Skočić would not remain a coach if he won. That’s what happened – Begović told us and went back to 1998.

– They were in a group with Germany, Yugoslavia, and the United States. Politics in Iran launched the thesis that the match against America must be led by an Iranian coach. And what happened, Ivić arranged a meeting with Roma, and knowing that rival scouts were following him, he mixed up the team and lost 6:1. He told me that personally. After that, there was tremendous political pressure that came from the state parliament to the president of the federation, who removed Ivić.

The only Croatian coach who led them to the World Cup was Branko Ivanković in 2006, but certain circles wanted to “negotiate” with him too…

– Branko made an excellent result, but there was a rush, a criticism that he is not a qualified coach. Fortunately, he had the president of the federation, Mohammad Dadkan, who firmly stood behind him, as well as some people from politics, although even then there was a big fight in the parliament.

However, after the WC, apart from Ivanković, Dadkan was also a former player. In the group with Portugal, Mexico, and Angola, they won one point and the last place. It was also an indication of how precarious the involvement in the Iranian national team is…

– Skočić did a phenomenal job and confirmed the huge impression that the Croatian coaches left in Iran. A lot of us were there, starting with Stanko Poklepović, Tomislav Ivić. Ćire Blažević, Luka Bonačić, Zlatko Kranjčar, Mladen Frančić, of course Branko Ivanković. We had a big influence, we gave them more top players and national team members than all foreign coaches combined. I claim that responsibly. The new president Taj said in the campaign that Skočić has no experience and is not good enough to lead the team at the WC, which of course is not true. There was a struggle over the successor, some were looking for an Iranian, they took Quairoz as a compromise, who had already led them twice at the WC and never made it past the group.

How was Skočić good enough to win Qatar, but now he’s not?

– That’s what I told the Iranian journalists. Before him, the coach was the Belgian Marc Wilmots, who won only two points, Skočić saved them. I said that it is a shame that the man who brought them superiorly to the World Cup should be removed in such a way. In the end, Taj said that Dragan is a good coach, but they need a man with experience.

There was a conflict between the players over Skočić. Some were for him, but one group led by Mehdi Taremi from Porto wanted to remove him. It started with Skočić leaving Taremi out of the team after he publicly opposed him in a post on Twitter. Skočić said that the Iranian players are tactically deficient, to which Taremi asserted that they are excellent tactically as well as technically and physically.

– The media wrote that the players were divided. Skočič removed Taremi because of an inappropriate statement, but later he brought him back and he played. But maybe that resulted in everything that happened next. Several other players followed Taremi and there was indeed a division. The coach must not allow anyone to violate his authority, when he loses his grip, he is finished. It was an ordinary world for Skočić because they see that what they did to him was unfair. Part of the media was also against the dismissal, they write that Queiroz received a salary of 50 thousand euros per month, but also that there is no justification for Taj and Queiroz, who with the lack of time must deliver a good preparation for the World Cup. It will be interesting, the Americans are much stronger than before, and Iran, although they have good attackers, does not have a great defense. That’s why Skočić played a 5-4-1 formation. But they will “kill themselves” against America, then he can finish the World Cup for them – emphasized Vinko Begović, whom we caught on the phone on. He is retired and not currently involved in football, although he points out that he could still give a lot in the profession.