TNN - As news broke that Iran have been drawn in Group C of the Fifa U-17 World Cup and will play all their group matches in Goa, head coach Abbas Chamanian couldn't help smiling.
He had a front-row seat at the draw ceremony in Mumbai and Iran's group destination, at least for Iran, couldn't have been better. After all, the Asian powerhouse spent three weeks in Goa during the AFC U-16 Championship last year, and had it not been for the lottery of the tiebreaker, would have returned home with the Trophy. Iran eventually lost to Iraq in a nervy penalty shootout but still had the consolation of securing their place at the World Cup. Now, as Iran return to Goa, memories would keep flooding back with Chamanian hoping the end-result would be even better. "It's awesome to return to the same city where we spent 22 days. We played six difficult and memorable matches at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium (Fatorda) but now the situation at the World Cup will be different. We are trying to make the players realise that we will face stronger teams and the conditions will be different too. We feel returning to Goa is a good omen for us," the Iran head coach told TOI in an exclusive interview.
There is no doubt, Iran enjoyed their stay in Goa, a "wonderful place," in the words of their coach. There is just one concern, though, and Chamanian hopes there can be an adequate solution before they set foot here again later this month. "Goa has great sports infrastructure but one of the most concerning points is traffic in India. We expect it to be re-considered and solved during World Cup matches.
"India did its best during the AFC Championship and we do appreciate their efforts," said the coach. After failing to qualify for the first eight tournaments, Iran competed at their first U-17 World Cup at Trinidad and Tobago 2001 where they suffered three defeats and finished bottom of their group. Eight years later, the Asian side participated in Nigeria 2009, where they advanced from their pool but lost in the pre-quarterfinals.
They seemed in good form during the 2013 event in UAE but lost to eventual champions Nigeria.
This time around, Iran will fancy their chances of going far, even though have a tricky group to negotiate with teams like Germany, Costa Rica and Guinea all battling for the knockout slots.
"We have already watched videos of recent matches that Germany and Guinea played. I think all teams in our group are powerful and use different tactics," said the 53-year-old tactician who coached a number of clubs prior to being handed the reins of the Iranian U-20 national team in 2002. Iran's first goal would be to at least match their performance at Nigeria 2009 when they made it to the knockout stage. On the evidence of their showing at the AFC U-16 Championship - where they were the outstanding team - Iran shouldn't face too many hiccups, although nobody is willing to take anything for granted.
"We are a team working together so that we can reach our common goal," said Chamanian.