Croatian manager Dragan Skocic will be facing an uncertain future over his job at Iran’s national team before the final round of World Cup Asian qualifiers begins in September.
When asked if Skocic will remain in charge for the upcoming event, Iran Football Federation chief declined to give a clear answer.
“It’s up to federation’s presiding board to make the final decision over Skocic’s future,” said Shahabeddin Azizi-Khadem upon Iran’s arrival from Bahrain, after an impressive campaign in preliminary qualifiers saw Iran win 4-in-4 to top Group C.
Azizi-Khadem cast further doubts on Iran’s job, saying he would obey “a collective decision” to whether stick with the Croatian, or opt for a more high-profile figure for next round of qualifiers, where Iran will face the likes of Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Australia for a place in Qatar’s showpiece next year.
When Skocic was named Iran’s manager in February 2019 – a year before Azizi-Khadem took the helm at the federation – his appointment drew criticism from many in the country, who argued he did not have the experience, profile, and charisma to get the job done.
Skocic’s spell in Iran had seen him manage mid-table sides at the Persian Gulf Pro League, though he was praised for his managerial approach in Malavan, Foolad Khuzestan, and San’at Naft Abadan.
However, the 52-year-old surely believes he has earned the right to steer Iran through the end of the qualifications.
He took charge of a disappointed Iranian team, whose chances of progress hung by a thread after successive defeats against Bahrain (1-0) and Iraq (2-1) under Skocic’s predecessor Marc Wilmots.
Skocic’s man management and ability to establish solidarity among the players led to four wins in the reverse fixtures which included a 3-0 triumph over Bahrain and a first victory over familiar foes Iraq in 10 years – his seventh in the same number of outings with Iran.
It will be a short period before Iranian fans find out if the Croatian will be awarded with a new contract or the federation comes up with a more justified alternative to replace him.