Ivankovic may replace Wilmots in Team Melli: report

TEHRAN, Nov. 24 (MNA) – Reports from different Iranian media indicate that the Croat coach Branko Ivankovic will probably regain his seat in Team Melli following poor results of Marc Wilmots in the last games.

Led by the Belgian coach, Iran national football team gained two victories over Hong Kong and Cambodia and conceded two defeats against Bahrain and Iraq in the first round of 2022 World Cup qualifiers. The lackluster performance has raised criticism over the quality and tactics of the team’s coach. The team now has no other choice but to win all the remaining games to advance to the next round of qualifiers as the group leader.

Problems between Wilmots and the Iranian federation initially raised when the federation was not able to pay his salary due to economic problems and sanctions. According to reports, the Belgian coach didn’t return to Iran after the loss against Iraq and the move has deepened the division.

The federation says it has paid the coaching team’s wage up to the end of 2019 and has asked Wilmots to present a plan for upcoming matches and required preparations. Reports indicate that Wilmots has sent a letter to the federation last week which has failed to encourage the body to continue cooperation with the coach. The federation has given one week (till end of Nov.) to Wilmots to announce his plans and requests for the next round of the team’s preparation.

“The football federation has hit a deadlock in cooperation with Wilmots and this partnership will most likely end in the near future,” IRNA reported on Sunday, adding, “authorities couldn’t find any better choice for Team Melli other than Branko Ivankovic.”

The report adds that the initial agreement has been reached and some officials from the federation are set to hold a meeting with Branko on Monday.

“Ivankovic’s main condition to accept coaching Team Melli was to receive the payments he owned from Persepolis and he has been promised with an appropriate solution to settle the issue with the club,” added the report.

Reports also indicate that an Iranian envoy to Croatia has held a meeting with former Persepolis and Team Melli coach Ivankovic in Zagreb.

After the news published in different Iranian media, the federation issued a statement, neither denying nor confirming the reports. The statement said that during correspondence with Wilmots, the federation has highlighted its expectations according to the contract and the need for a focused plan for the team before the next round of qualifying games. “Results of follow-ups and negotiations about the head coach of Team Melli will be announced to the public in the future,” concluded the statement.

Experts had anticipated that Wilmots would have a difficult time in Iran due to the raised expectations of the public after eight years of having Carlos Queiroz as the head coach. The Portuguese had created a unified team during his stay and led Iran into back-to-back World Cup finals in 2014 and 2018.

Ivankovic has already led Iran from 2003 to 2006, managing to secure Team Melli’s spot in 2006 World Cup finals. He returned to Iran in 2015 to coach Persepolis and won the three league titles with the Reds before signing with Al-Ahli in 2019 due to his financial differences with the Iranian club.

Reporting by Mohammad Ali Haqshenas

News Code 152620

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