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By Kazem Ghiassi -  Created on 20 Dec 2005

Iran

Iranian assistant coach Human Afazeli says nobody should underestimate Team Melli during Germany 2006.

Afazeli is known in Iran for his enyclopaedic knowledge of the game's tactical aspects, and he revealed to Sky Sports his belief that, with a little luck, the Iranians can progress through the group stages and beyond.

"Football is about inches and seconds. We saw in 2002 hot favourites such as Argentina or France left the scene at early stage. But we aim at two things," he told skysports.com.

"Firstly, the best ever World Cup Iran has had. Last time we got three points. This time it should be higher, and secondly, reaching the knockout stage. It is tough but achievable.

"It will be very difficult for opponents to play against us and therefore we are thinking about the draw no more. We are looking at the future.
 
"In Iran, football is now part of every day life. Iranian media and fans have big dreams, and our mission is not to let them down. We will do what is humanly possible to see the team into the second round."

Afazeli also believes that it is merely a matter of time before Iranian players begin to make their mark in The Premiership.

"We definitely have good players who are able to play in England. All of the players who are playing for Bundesliga teams and Rahman Rezaei of Messina can play in The Premiership.

"Javad Nekounam (pictured) can also play in England. But I assume we don't have good connections. The World Cup would be the best place for scouts to see our team."

Although he admits that Iranian football has a long way to go before it can genuinely assert itself on the international scene, the Tehranian tactician believes that the resources are in place for Team Melli to build a successful future.
 
"We have an excellent team with an excellent coach. We need to take our chances and then we are through. It won't be easy but it's possible. The key game would be the opening match against Mexico.

"[Iranian football has] a long way to go. We need a stable management with a ten-to-15-year plan and financial resources. To be a contender you need to have a talented generation in the team at the same time.

"That can happen by accident and with good form and some luck we may achieve something.

"In Iran enough talents are available. There is so much love of the game. We need a systematic procedure of identifying and developing new talents.

"It is possible to achieve something extraordinary in this tournament."

   
 
 
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