Head coach Dragan Skocic has the full support of the Football Federation of Iran, said Ehsan Osouli, a member of the presiding board at the federation, amid ongoing rumors regarding the future of Iran’s bench.
Skocic has been enjoying a glittering 2022 World Cup qualification campaign with Iran as a 1-0 home victory over Iraq in late January secured a place for the country at the final showdown in Qatar.
The win against Iraq was followed by the same socreline against the UAE days later – a seventh victory in eight group fixtures – which kept Skocic’s men atop the Group A of the Asian qualifiers with 22 points – two clear of South Korea, and 13 more than third-placed Emiratis, with two games to spare.
However, there has been a constant debate among the football fans and pundits in the country over who should be in charge of Iran’s bench when the main event kicks off on November 21.
Many believe the Croatian, who has led Iran to 14 wins in 15 games since taking the national team’s helm in February 2020, has earned the right to steer it in Qatar, while his critics argue he needs to be replaced by a rather more high-profile manager if Iran, which will play in the finals for the third consecutive occasion, is to progress from the group stage for the first time.
Iran, under Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz, came within touching distance of a last-16 spot at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, finishing one point adrift of Group B top two Spain and Portugal.
Questions over Iran’s job escalated last week, following the changes at the high ranks of the Iranian football, which saw the president of the federation Shahabeddin Azizi-Khadem being “temporarily” removed from his duties for what has been said to be “the lack of financial transparency of the federation, and uncertainty over the contracts of national football and futsal head coaches” among others.
Mirshad Majedi, the caretaker of the federation, is yet to comment on Skocic’s future, but Osouli, who was among eight board members to vote in favor of Azizi-Khadem’s dismissal, suggested that the Croatian will be Iran’s head coach in Qatar.
“Our approach will be to support the national team and its technical staff,” Osouli told Mehr News Agency, adding, “This group has put in a great deal of effort to achieve superb results, so it will have the 100 percent backing of the federation behind it in the future.”
Skocic’s appointment has been heavily criticized since the very first by some in the country, who have questioned his relatively ordinary CV prior to taking the role, which included spells at rather minnow Iranian clubs.
Some pundits and ex-Iranian internationals have given the credit of the team’s success over the past two years to the quality of players at Skocic’s disposal – most notably those playing in the European leagues, namely Porto’s Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Feyenoord, and former Zenit striker Sardar Azmoun, who joined Bundesliga outfit Leverkusen in January.