The Iranians are looking to put up a 5-star performance in their opening match against the Super Eagles on June 16, 2014 at the FIFA World Cup because it will decide how far they would go in the competition.
Human Afazeli, Iran’s assistant coach at the 2006 World Cup in Germany said “Football has a unique standing in society – people believe with the election and Iran qualifying that things are getting better,” adding,”The decisive game will be the opener against Nigeria – if we play well it will give confidence, but if we lose it will be very tough.”
He speaks from experience after Iran’s disappointment in 2006. A team packed with players from European leagues lost to Mexico and Portugal before earning a 1-1 draw against Angola. The team also went out in the first round in 1978 and 1998.
“At our last two World Cups we were not prepared organisationally to seize the opportunity,” said Afazeli. “Now, we have excellent organisation, especially defensively. That will really help us in Brazil because we’re underdogs.”
On the country’s qualification for the World Cup, Afazeli said, “It was a very good feeling for the people.”
On supporter forums, most fans agreed Iran were outsiders to reach the second round, but were also confident of springing a surprise, especially as Iran will play Nigeria in Curitiba, which like Tehran stands about a kilometre above sea level.