There are two sides to any successful team and, for 181 minutes at Brazil 2014, Iran have been near-flawless in one. Certainly, few defences at this FIFA World Cup™ have been as disciplined or well-drilled as Carlos Queiroz’s, and it took a goal out of nothing – a moment of pure Lionel Messi inspiration – for all their diligence to be undone.
That flash of Messi magic denied the Iranians a second successive clean sheet, and according to Ashkan Dejagah, there is an inevitability to their campaign having been built on such foundations. As he told FIFA.com: ” We don’t have players like Messi, [Sergio] Aguero and [Angel] Di Maria, so we need to focus on making ourselves as well-organised as possible. The shape of the team, making sure we’re tough to get through defensively, is something that has been very important for the coach in the build-up to this tournament.
“He’s spent a lot of time on the training field making sure that we have that we’re compact and ready to take on the best teams in the world. Neither Nigeria nor Argentina had many chances against us and, realistically, that’s the only way we can go about things. If we played a really open game against players like Messi, they would have killed us.”
Opening up and going on the offensive has, though – thanks to Argentina’s No10 – gone from being a dangerous option to being Iran’s only option. Anything but victory against Bosnia and Herzegovina will, after all, dash any lingering hopes of reaching the last 16, which makes finding a way to goal the key challenge.
“The fact we’ve not scored yet is something we need to put right,” acknowledged Dejagah. “I think we were really unlucky against Argentina though. We had a lot of chances and it was one of those games where everyone in the team did their job and played well. It’s hard when you lose a game like that, although you have to stand back and give credit to Messi. It’s times like those, when games are really tight, that the great players show how important they are. But we can still take positives and be proud of our performance.
“I actually thought I’d scored in the game against Argentina – that header I had, I thought it was in for sure. But again, you have to applaud their keeper for a really fantastic save. I think a goal will come for us though. We definitely have players who can score and I think we were more dangerous in our second game compared to our first.
“Hopefully this third match will bring another step up. We’ll definitely be going for goals and we still have a chance to go through, I’m sure of that. What we need to do is take the good things we’ve done so far, improve a little bit in other areas and give everything to beat Bosnia. If we do that – and I think it’s a game we can win – we can still qualify.”
Having come up against most of his upcoming opponents either in the Bundesliga or the English Premier League, Dejagah knows better than most that the debutants boast plenty of individual talent. However, the 27-year-old Fulham midfielder – who represented Germany at youth level before declaring for Iran – is relishing his first experience of the World Cup, and has no desire to join the Bosnians in heading for home.
He said: “Being at this World Cup has the highlight of my career, for sure. Every footballer wants to play at this tournament and, here in Brazil, with the atmosphere, it’s even more special. I’m really enjoying it. And, believe me, I really want to make sure we stay here for as long as possible.”