Goal-shy Iran have work to do

Goal-shy Iran have work to do

Lack of strong opposition in friendlies have hampered the team

Goal-shy Iran have work to do

Iran head to Brazil as Asia's top-ranked nation but their hopes of reaching the knockout stages of a World Cup for the first time have been hampered by a lack of top class friendly opposition and a wave of negativity surrounding the team.

Since booking their spot in the finals by winning their Asian qualifying group last June, Iran, ranked No 1 in Asia and 37th in the world by FIFA, have only played one international friendly match against Guinea in Tehran, which they lost 2-1.

By contrast, Asian champions Japan have faced World Cup finalists Uruguay, Netherlands, Belgium and Ghana in friendlies, aiming to give their squad an experience of the task they will face In Brazil.

Iran's Portuguese boss Carlos Queiroz bemoaned the situation, believed to be down to politics and finances, after the loss to Guinea, which drew withering criticism from a local media fed up with the sluggish performances of an aging team.

"We try our best, we have limited resources, we have some issues in our preparations but the federation make a lot of efforts to give the best to the players and the team," Queiroz said at the Asian Cup draw in March.

"In the last three years despite all the difficulties, Iran has showed the number one most important thing in the football world - passion.

"If you have passion for the game, that is always a good starting point. With the passion of the players and the fans, we were able to qualify for the World Cup."

The former Real Madrid and Portugal boss, who is expected to step down after the World Cup, tapped his contacts to help fix a training camp and warm-up matches in South Africa, whom he used to coach, and his homeland of Mozambique, besides playing a clutch of warm-up games.

Iran’s struggle for goals is a worry for Queiroz, which has led to him scouring the Iranian diaspora to help boost his defence-oriented side.

Team Melli managed only three goals in the first five games of their final Asian qualifying group before striker Reza "Gucci" Ghoochannejhad, who was born in Tehran but emigrated to Netherlands as a child, was found and fired the team to a fourth World Cup.