Editorial Part II: Daei did not pick the right bench
IranSportsPress.com – Out of Iran’s eleven World Cup qualification games the team has got off to a leading start in seven of them. Though, in three crucial games Daei’s team conceded late goals to deny them three vital points. In a fourth game at home to an unbeaten Korea DPR it was only the heroics of Mehdi Rahmati that saved Iran from dropping another two-goal lead. Actually, pretty much the same could be said about a fifth game, the away game to Syria…
Min 72, 78, 81, 82 and 86, send this text message to Ali Daei and he will have nightmares all night. That’s how late Kuwait, Korea DPR, South Korea and Saudi Arabia scored on Iran. Four years ago Iran was in a much similar position. At home to Japan, Korea DPR and Bahrain with 250 000 Iranian’s anxiously watching on in the stands and doing the Mexican wave Iran had the slimmest possible lead in all three games. The big difference though is that Iran held on to it and grabbed nine out of nine possible home points. The big difference was that Branko played out the same second half cards over and over, it was ugly, but it got the job done.
Min 64, 65 and 69, that’s when Branko told Alavi to come on for Zandi and to kill off the games. It was ugly but it got even uglier when Karimi a dozen minutes later in all three games was subbed out for Kameli and Vahedi. Branko didn’t try nor did he want to play a 10-0-0 formation. The Croatian didn’t try to play ball possession football either but all he did was to improve the teams’ ability to defend whenever it didn’t possess the ball.
Daei, Rutemoller and Afazeli was about to be named the three musketeers or even have "genius", "Rutemollinho" or "Athos" as their new middle name, if it wasn’t for min 72, 78, 81…
This is where the bench comes in and this is where the substitutes come in. Against Korea DPR Iran was very lucky to escape from a late Korean equaliser. Afterwards I showed repeated scenes (click here) of an undisciplined Shojaei that wasn’t doing his defensive work on his left side (in the dying minutes). We can’t really blame Shojaei though, he can’t be at two places at the same time and his guts told him to counter on wide-open grass to kill off the game.
In Iran’s next home game Khalatbari took charge of the left side and it was all going as planned when Nekounam scored his wonder goal. Though that was the turning point and almost immediately after the goal the Koreans got back in to the game as they were only denied by the crossbar. The camera didn’t caught this but the 80 000 Iranian or so in the stadium saw Daei badly lash out at Khalatbari and Ashjari for not doing their defensive work on the left side. At the same time as Khalatbari was doing the exact same mistakes as Shojaei in the exact same situation; Bagheri was struggling in central midfield. Khalatbari focused too much on running forward and Bagheri simply couldn’t keep up with the quicker and younger Koreans. This time Shojaei on the right side of midfield once more was taking too big risks in the offence and Daei controversially took him out for a more defensive option/Gholamnejad (had they possibly read my analysis?). Though he made the mistake of keeping an invisible Hashemian on the field. The Iran team now with three points in sight were only trying to counter, but Iran’s only striker barely could keep up with the tempo and was left behind when his own team countered. This is where an in-form Borhani should have came on and with proper pre-game planning of all the different possible scenarios; this would have been planned for. Or, Shojaei would have moved into Hashemian’s position and Gholamnejad would have taken over the right wing. To not replace Bagheri and Khalatbari were other mistakes that cost Iran the three points and perhaps even a World Cup spot (and a guaranteed sum of what, 5-6 million Euros?).
For the crucial Saudi Arabia game Daei had now called up Madanchi again (he wasn’t called up for the South Korea game). I believe Mehrzad is one of the best left-wingers in Iran when it comes to cover grass, when it comes to hustling and simply running. I was sure; Daei had now learned from past mistakes and would send Madanchi on for an "Alavi"/"Gholamnejad" mission. But nowhere was Andranik Teymourian to be found. "Ando" had been playing several games from start in the Championship and he was the ideal "Alavi"/"Kamikaze" substitution with less than half an hour to go or so. Iran has never had a player like Andranik before, a player that gives the opponents absolutely no time with the ball and that can run and cover more grass than Forrest Gump himself.
Daei didn’t do it, Afazeli didn’t do it and neither did Rutemoller. Actually, they didn’t do anything. Not one single substitution was made by Iran after Shojaei’s first ever World Cup qualification goal. That is, not until Saudi Arabia had scored the equaliser with only ten minutes to go. Too little too late anyone?
For Part I: Click here