Iran national team coach, Dragan Skocic, has been nominated for the 2021 World Best National Coach award.
The Croatian is among a 25-man shortlist for the accolade which also includes Belgium’s Roberto Martinez, Didier Deschamps of France and Brazil’s Tite.
Reigning world and European champion, Deschamps, is the current holder. However, Skocic has done enough to knock him off the throne, according to casinoranking.
Unheralded, the 53-year-old is building something of a dynasty in Asia. Unlike his more celebrated peers, Skocic is surpassing expectations with Team Melli without much fanfare.
Skocic arrived at a time when the national team was in the direst of straits and became head coach in the strangest of circumstances. In 2019, Team Melli’s longest-serving manager, Carlos Queiroz finally left for Lisbon after eight years at the helm. Under him, Iran was Asia’s best side for two years.
Marc Wilmots stepped into his big shoes. But just seven months into a three-year contract, the Belgian abandoned the shoes, citing “serious contractual violations”, with FIFA later ordering Iran to pay him $6million in compensation.
Around the same time in December 2019, the then-president of the Iranian Football Federation Mehdi Taj resigned – officially on the advice of his doctors, but also at a time when he was beset by corruption allegations – and the mantle was taken up by Haidar Baharvand.
After a long search, Skocic was obliged to take up the challenge. At first, he admitted the monstrous nature of the task. Iran was third in the region, five points behind Iraq, “doomed to compensate” and with player morale ebbing away.
But the Croatian, who is familiar with the country, settled in quite effortlessly – breaking some records along the way.
Skocic started his career with wins over Uzbekistan, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Syria in three friendly matches. He then made history in the 2022 World Cup qualification Round 2, beating Hong Kong, Cambodia, Bahrain and Iraq in four must-win matches.
He added three more victories to his tally in the matches against Syria, Iraq and the UAE in the 2022 World Cup qualification Round 3, which were all backed with odds from jeux du casino at the time. By doing so, he broke Mohammad Mayeli Kohan’s nine-match winning streak. As if that was not enough, the Persian held South Korea to a 1-1 draw as Skocic extended his unbeaten start.
It means Iran has not tasted defeat in 11 successive games under the Croat. His almost 92 per cent win ratio is incomparable with any manager in the world at the moment. But more impressive, Iran is flying to Qatar.