It has taken five attempts but Iran have finally made their mark at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup and, having reached the knockout stage for the first time, coach Marco Octavio believes his side can go even further at Tahiti 2013.
The Brazilian-born mentor will lead Team Melli into battle against reigning world champions Russia on Wednesday after his side survived a hairy final matchday in their group to progress in a three-way head-to-head countback by a single goal.
Despite their narrow escape Iran have impressed with their flair and battling qualities at Tahiti 2013. Following a 4-1 defeat against Brazil, they defeated a powerful Senegal side 5-3, before being edged out 3-2 by Ukraine.
Their resilience has been a theme across the three matches. It was a trait that first came to attention when they came from three goals down to defeat Japan and claim the Asian crown in January.
“I have been coaching for a long time in Brazil and Portugal and I know exactly the level that we have,” Octavio told FIFA.com with a mixture of excitement and adrenalin following their narrow progress to the knockout stage. “We played well against Brazil, so my players have confidence. Of course they need more international experience, more participation at this kind of level but we showed that we have a good team, and a very a competitive team.”
Growing the game back home
Football is hugely popular in Iran as evidenced, most famously, by regular massive crowds at Tehran’s storied Azadi stadium, but Octavia says the nation's sand-based practioners also has a significant following.
“The matches are being shown live early in the morning and all the people in Iran are watching and have big hopes for Iran. We are developing beach soccer in Iran, and the country was very happy after we became champions of Asia. The players are famous, everyone knows them because matches are on the main TV channel.”
Octavio remains unsurprised by his team’s historic progress to the last eight. “We had a very good preparation. We played in Belarus, where we defeated Ukraine. We won two matches against Italy in Iran also, so our team is prepared. Although of course we know that the level in the World Cup is higher. It is now a big responsibility to play in the World Cup.”