By Kaveh Mahjoob
Lastkick.com - Against the proud Iranian national team, the UAEâ€™s ball movement was amazing. Fast and furious the round object traveled from the midfield to the sides, to the left and to the right wing where Iranâ€™s defense is traditionally most vulnerable. Emirate players acted on the field as if they were lions of the desert playing football newcomers. UAE was there to win and nothing but a win seemed to save them from a likely elimination in the world cup qualifying round. Team Melli was there as a confused guest that performed their worst game in recent memory as recent as last ten years.
Iran began to show signs of life, read signs of being a team, toward the end of the match mostly as a result of substitutions for the old guard; Kia, Hashemian and Zare.
When a team plays as horrible as Iran did and the score is tie, look for the goalkeeper to be the star and in this case, Iranâ€™s keeper Rahmati was the player of the game. Interestingly, Iranâ€™s coach Daei who should have been mad at his players and whatever playing system he had chosen for the game was mad at Rahmatiâ€™s choice for player of the game because that signified Emirate as the better team. I have news for Iranâ€™s coaching staff. UAE was the better team and Rahmati like the match against North Korea ensured Iranâ€™s points.
Since 1998 and the great Abedzadeh, Iran has been searching for the next great keeper in the tradition of Hejazi and Abedzadeh. The search has finally seemed to ended with a young keeper who has great reflexes, right physical makeup and most of all is fearless in one on ones. Iranâ€™s defense continued to act as the official â€œSwiss Cheeseâ€ of defenses and allowed Emirate forwards to attack from either wings at will, go direct through the middle and perform one-two moves that reminded us of Brazilian style attackers rather than a team that had exactly zero points in three matches.
In midfield, for the most part, Iran allowed the pulse of the game to be in Emirate hands. Mahdavi Kia was out of shape and out of sync. A great forward of the past could not even cross his corner kicks beyond the first post and was ineffective. Shojai and Nekunam fresh out of Spainâ€™s last place club were invisible and Hashemian reminded us that his helicopter landed a couple of years ago and no longer soars over the heads of second or third class defenders.
Under this crowd of poor performances, Daeiâ€™s substitute players brought much needed energy and Rahmati was the superhero goalkeeper. New, old Capitan Karim Bagheri was another bright light in otherwise moonless evening for the Iranian side. Returning from his years of volunteered retirement, Bagheri created opportunities and scored on a great cross.
With games remaining against South Korea (twice), road game in North Korea, a home match against Saudi Arabia and these same Emirate players, Iran national team has to go through a revival and a team facelift to remain competitive for a top two spots.
More importantly, Ali Daei needs to start from within and look at his coaching bench and ask the tough question of why Iran played so poorly in the closing minutes against North Korea and the entire UAE match. Daei needs to channel his anger away from media and the world and into finding fundamental fixes for a national team deep in need of new blood. Daeiâ€™s current defenders are not competitive with Asiaâ€™s second or first tier attackers and are certainly not ready for prime time at the world level.
Iran should thank her lucky stars. In the match against UAE, Iranâ€™s luck star was goalkeeper Rahmati.