June 25, 2024
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TT – TEHRAN, Once again, the Iran national football team failed to seize the opportunity of winning the AFC Asian Cup trophy, extending their pursuit of this coveted prize for over fifty years.

Iran’s performance during the 2023 AFC Asian Cup was characterized by notable highs and lows. Amir Ghalenoei, who began his tenure as the national team’s head coach in March 2023, hoped that the experienced players comprising the team would lead them to victory and end Iran’s 48-year football drought. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen, so Iranian football will have to wait for over four years to compete for the cup, adding to over 50 years of anticipation.

The semi-final match against Qatar was a perfect chance for Iran to make it to the AFC Asian Cup final for the first time in over four decades. However, Team Melli squandered this chance with a performance below expectations, especially in defensive plays, compounded by a stroke of misfortune, resulting in a 3-2 defeat to defending champions Qatar.

Many analysts attributed Iran’s defeat against Qatar to tactical errors in selecting the starting lineup and then substitutions. However, Ghalenoei believed that misfortune played a more significant role in the team’s loss, citing Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s shot hitting the crossbar in the final moments of the game as evidence.

The current team consists of players who have been playing together for nearly a decade in the national team, with many having experience in various European and Asian leagues. The prominent stars of this generation include Mehdi Taremi of Porto, Sardar Azmoun of AS Roma, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Feyenoord.

Despite being dubbed “the golden generation” of Iranian football, they have yet to achieve significant success. Winning the AFC Asian Cup and advancing to the knockout stage of the FIFA World Cup have been cherished dreams for the Iranian football, and it was expected that this generation would fulfill these aspirations. However, they were eliminated in the group stage of the 2014, 2018, and 2022 World Cups, and in the last three editions of the AFC Asian Cup, they failed to progress beyond the semi-final. It appears that this generation fell short of being the golden generation, prompting Iran to consider generational changes.

With Ghalenoei remaining as the head coach of the Iranian national team until the 2026 World Cup, there are high hopes for a rejuvenation and a new era.

By Farrokh Hesabi