Of all the curious tales that football spawns across the globe, there can only be few players experiencing a more bittersweet moment in their careers than Daniel Davari at present. While the Eintracht Braunschweig goalkeeper is helping his club fight for Bundesliga survival, the 26-year-old also has one eye on participating at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
After making his debut for the Iranian national team just a few months ago, Davari is now a regular member of the squad. “Going to the World Cup would definitely be the highlight of my career,” he told FIFA.com in an exclusive interview. “So far getting promoted to the Bundesliga was the best thing, but an invitation to go to the World Cup would be incredible, it’s what everyone dreams about. I’d be happy and proud and my family would be delighted.”
World Cup dream
Davari may only have two international appearances to his name thus far, but his competition for the No1 jersey, Rahman Ahmadi and Hamed Lak - with just eight and one caps respectively - hardly boast more experience. The race to be first-choice in Brazil is, therefore, still wide open.
“The coach doesn’t have to decide just yet,” Davari continued. “I’m sure he’ll wait and see what happens during our preparations. It’s up to me to do my best in training and in our warm-up matches and to play as well as I can. I’d be really happy to be in the squad, whether it be as first, second or third choice. I always try to give everything when I get called up.”
Iran went undefeated in the two matches Davari played, and the custodian fondly recalls his international debut, a 3-0 victory over Thailand on 15 November 2013: “It was an indescribable experience. I’d imagined what it might be like, but when it actually happened it surpassed my wildest dreams.
"I was really nervous, which was unusual because I’m normally very calm before games. I had goosebumps when the national anthem was played. It was by far the best experience I’ve had in football. I’m really happy to play for Iran.”
At the beginning of next month Davari will join up with the national team once more, with friendlies scheduled against Kuwait on 3 March and Guinea two days later. It is then that Davari, who took inspiration from both his grandfather and former Germany international Jens Lehmann to become a goalkeeper, could discover his chances of being No1 in Brazil.
After being drawn against Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria in Group F, Iran’s path to the knockout rounds is anything but straightforward. “Argentina are the clear favourites in our group,” Davari said. “Bosnia also have a great team with a lot of good players, many of whom play in the Bundesliga or elsewhere abroad. And then there’s Nigeria. On the whole, African teams are very strong, especially physically. It’s a massive challenge and I’m glad we have three really tough games.”
Davari, who was born and raised in Germany by his Iranian father and Polish mother, has not looked back since making his breakthrough at Braunschweig in 2009. However, the club are in a precarious position at the foot of the Bundesliga standings, with just 12 points to show from their 20 league outings this season.
“We’re still very optimistic,” Davari continued. “You shouldn’t give up as long as it’s still mathematically possible, and we won’t. We believe we’ve got a good chance, especially as we’ve improved a lot coming into the second half of the season. We need to keep going into our next games ready to give everything.”
This weekend Braunschweig face a relegation six-pointer at home to 17th-placed Hamburg. “You have to make your own luck,” said Davari. “People tend to say that you’re out of luck when things are going badly, but last year we discovered that that’s not necessarily the case.“
The Lions’ pursuit of a fourth victory this term will not be easy, especially as their visitors have history on their side: Hamburg were one of the Bundesliga’s founding members and are the only club never to have been relegated.
With so much at stake for both club and country in the coming months, Davari will no doubt experience a wide range of emotions between now and Brazil 2014. Yet if all goes to plan, the towering custodian will be able to look back on this period of uncertainty with a smile, safe in the knowledge that Bundesliga survival, and a starting place at the World Cup, are assured.