Assessment: Iran depart with pride
Team Melli have bowed out of the World Cup in the group stages and ESPNFC blogger Afshin Afshar gives his verdict on the brighter points of the campaign as well as what went wrong.
One sentence, World Cup recap
Iran proved once again that given proper preparations leading in to big tournaments, the country can hold its own against the big boys.
All team assessments
Group Stage: Australia | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Cameroon | Croatia | Ecuador | England | Ghana | Honduras | Italy | Iran
Ivory Coast | Japan | Portugal | Russia | South Korea | Spain
Round of 16: Algeria | Chile | Greece | Mexico
Nigeria | Switzerland | Uruguay | United States
Quarterfinals: Colombia | France | Belgium | Costa Rica
Semifinals: Brazil | Netherlands
Although he found the net only once, striker Reza Ghoochannejad had a great tournament. As the sole striker the Charlton Athletic frontman had to single-handedly fight multiple defenders in all three matches, yet he held his own and even managed to create a few chances. His work rate was amongst the top three in the squad for all three matches. He held the ball up when he had to, ran into lanes when he found them, chased down every loose ball, and consistently assisted on the defensive end. His pace with the ball at his feet was a pleasant surprise, and he showed good aerial skills too.
At 26, Ghoochannejad still has a bright future ahead of him. Perhaps with the experience he will gain playing for Charlton next season, he could shine even brighter for Team Melli during the Asian Cup 2015 tournament in Australia next January.
The first 91 minutes of the match against Argentina was the highlight of Team Melli's Brazil 2014 campaign. For almost the entire game, against all odds, the side managed to hold their own against the two-time world champions and their superstar Lionel Messi. Going into the match most Iranian fans were hoping that their team could just avoid a thrashing by Albiceleste, but Iran not only defend manfully but also created a few chances of their own. Only the brilliance of Messi denied them a famous draw.
By contrast, the 91st minute of the match against Argentina was probably the lowest moment of Iran's campaign too. With match tied at 0-0, Iran was only seconds away from coming away with single point that would surely have boosted their moral going into the last round of the group stage but Messi struck and it was game over. Having failed to score in their previous two matches, Reza's goal against Bosnia-Herzegovina was welcome, but the 3-1 defeat that ended Iran's hopes of qualifying for the next round was painful to take.
Carlos Queiroz and his staff demonstrated that Iranian football has the potential to be competitive beyond Asia. Because Queiroz was arguably the highest profile coach Team Melli has ever had, he was able to secure the necessary resources throughout the qualifying campaign and the World Cup tournament. He was very persistent in drawing Iranian football officials' attention to planning details that they normally ignore. His scientific approach to the physical and technical aspects of the game enabled the players to perform at a higher level and go toe-to-toe with some of the best in the world.
Perhaps this could serve as a start for modernizing certain aspects of Iranian football. Furthermore, before opting to depart, Queiroz successfully recruited and used players of Iranian descent from all around the world. Until now this was a taboo that may have had its roots in social and political complexities of the Iran today, but it is safe to assume that because of the success of this experiment we will see more and more players like this opting to play for their fatherland.