Tehran – For many years Iranian football fans have had to deal with the reality that our beloved Team Melli had never qualified for consecutive world cups.
Iran qualified to France 98 in dramatic fashion but four years later a terrible performance in Manama prevented TM from participating in the first World Cup held in Asia.
Qualification to Germany 2006 under the tutelage of Branko Ivankovic seemed as though Iran had turned a corner but afterwards we all saw how an incompetent federation and coaching staff was unable to see Iran through to South Africa.
Things may not be perfect now but head coach Carlos Queiroz has been at the helm of Team Melli since 2011 and there is finally some consistency.
Iran had to do things the hard way to qualify to Brazil 2014 but now Iran have qualified to Russia 2018 after a 2-0 victory against Uzbekistan on 12 June at Azadi Stadium.
Sardar Azmoun beat the Uzbek offside trap after receiving a pass from Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the 23rd minute and the Rostov based striker calmly slipped the ball between the legs of keeper Aleksander Lobanov to give Iran a 1-0 lead.
Iran survived a missed penalty from Masoud Shojaei early in the second half but Team Melli remained in control and refused to sit back.
In the 88th minute Mehdi Taremi sealed the victory for Iran after a nice give-and-go with Azmoun. The forward from Persepolis felt right at home when he put his shot past Lobanov after some excellent individual skill in the Uzbek penalty area.
Azmoun and Taremi have written their names in Team Melli history along with players such as Karim Bagheri, Khodadad Azizi, Mohammad Nosrati, and Reza Ghoochannejhad.
In previous World Cup qualifying campaigns we saw that our Team Melli had a habit of doing things the hard way but now they can already think about Russia despite having two more qualifiers to play.
There have been times when we heard the rumors about Carlos Queiroz resigning from Team Melli due to problems with the federation but the bottom line is that Queiroz is the longest tenured head coach for Iran and it comes as no surprise that he is the first head coach to lead Team Melli to consecutive world cups.
Team Melli fans have every reason to smile but it is safe to say that one year from now we will be hoping to see Iran qualify to the second round of the World Cup for the first time ever.
One thing is for sure: we have the right coach to lead us out of the group stage and he has three players who are very familiar with the football stadiums in Russia.