Iran to play three friendlies
© AFP

Iran are to prepare for their next 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ qualifier with friendly games against Syria, Vietnam and China. The games against Syria will be played in Tehran on 23 May and Team Melli will face Vietnam and China in China on 29 May and 1 June respectively.

Iran's next world cup qualifier will be an away game against North Korea on 6 June. Their previous match in the group, held in Tehran, ended in Team Melli winning 2-1.

Iran had sacked two national football team coaches in a month's time and is now relying on Afshin Qotbi, who has promised to take his side to a fourth FIFA World Cup™ appearance at next summer's tournament in South Africa, despite their poor qualifying form.

Iran faces an uphill struggle to secure a place at the FIFA World Cup, with two away matches in South and North Korea and a home match with the United Arab Emirates to come. It is currently in fourth place in Asian qualifying group two.

Qotbi is banking on his knowledge of Korean football to give his new charges an advantage when they take on the North in their next game. He had a long stint assisting successive Dutch coaches Guus Hiddink, Dick Advocaat and then Pim Verbeek with the South Korean national side.

South Korea top the pool with 11 points from five games, followed by their northern neighbours on ten points from six games, with Saudi Arabia in third, also on ten points from six games. Iran have six points from five games, having recorded just one win and three draws.

Asia has four automatic qualifying berths, with the third-placed teams in the two final qualifying groups playing off against each other for the right to take on Oceania zone victors New Zealand for a place in the finals.

Iran appeared in the 1978, 1998 and 2006 FIFA World Cups. Their best result was in France in 1998 when they beat the United States by two goals to one in a group match.