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Number Seven Thousand Five Hundred and Five - 12 February 2024
Iran Daily - Number Seven Thousand Five Hundred and Five - 12 February 2024 - Page 6

Qalenoei to stay on as Iran manager and embark on ‘rejuvenation’ project

Sports Desk

Amir Qalenoei will continue as the head coach of the Iranian national team despite a mixed reception to his side’s AFC Asian Cup campaign.
Iran made it to the semifinals in Qatar before suffering a 3-2 defeat against the host, which went on to beat Jordan in Saturday’s final showdown for a second successive crown in the Asian flagship international event.
Qalenoei overtook from Portuguese Carlos Queiroz last March – 16 years after his previous 12-month spell – and will be tasked with steering Iran to the 2026 World Cup in the United States, Canada, and Mexico.
Iran will be back in action in a double header against Turkmenistan in the second-round group phase of the Asian qualifiers in late March.
Qalenoei’s side tops Group E with four points, thanks to a 4-0 victory over Hong Kong in mid-November, followed by a 2-2 away draw against Uzbekistan.
“The Football Federation of Iran welcomes the head coach’s approach to rejuvenate the national team and has asked him to devise his future plans as soon as possible,” Ehsan Osouli, the spokesman of the country’s governing body of the sport, said in an interview with the federation’s website on Friday.
Iran had the oldest squad at the Asian Cup and some of the team’s senior members are expected to call time on their international careers after a sixth last-four heartbreak for the three-time champion in the tournament.
The pinnacle of Iran’s six-game run in Qatar came in the quarterfinals, when a dominant second-half display saw Team Melli come back from behind to defeat the pretournament favorite Japan 2-1.
With Saudi Arabia and Australia also missing out on a last-four spot and South Korea stunned by Jordan in the semifinals, the stage looked set for Iran to walk away with the ultimate prize but the country’s quest for the elusive crown will now extend beyond five decades.  
Qalenoei did a decent job in leading Iran to a top-spot finish in the group with maximum points – a feat only achieved by Qatar and Iraq – though his team received criticism for the below-par performances in the 1-0 win against Hong Kong and the last-16 shootout victory over Syria, while some pundits questioned his gameplan, as well as the players’ mindset, in the semifinal setback.


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