Iran appoints Iranian-American as new head coach

Afshin QotbiTehran  - The Iranian Football Federation (FFI) on Wednesday appointed Iranian-American Afshin Qotbi as new head coach for the country's national football team, ISNA news agency reported.

FFI vice-president Mehdi Taj told ISNA that Qotbi lead Iran's national football team in the remaining three World Cup qualification games against North and South Korea and the United Arab Emirates.

Qotbi has already signed the contract and will come to Tehran on Thursday, Taj said.

The FFI deputy added that Qotbi will have one Dutch and one Iranian assistant.

Qotbi's appointment came after Iran's newly-appointed coach Mohammad Mayelikohan resigned Tuesday after only two weeks on the job. His resignation was a fresh blow to the national team as it struggles to qualify for the 2010 World Cup finals.

Mayelikohan had succeeded Ali Daei who was dismissed following a 2-1 home defeat against Saudi Arabia in a World Cup qualifier on March 28.

The result has left Iran with an uphill battle to qualify for the 2010 finals in South Africa.

Qotbi, 46, is an electrical engineering graduate from the United States, who however has spent most of his working life as a football coach.

He has strong coaching credentials, including a spell at Korean side Samsung and was technical assistant to South Korea under Dutchman Guus Hiddink.

After the Asian Cup 2007, he was hired by Persepolis Tehran and led the capital's team to its first championship in years but severed his contract last year after differences with the club directors.

Football observers consider Qotbi as the best option for the national team due his mixed Western and Persian mentality.

The FFI turned in March last year to Qotbi but at the last minute chose national team skipper Ali Daei instead which many critics considered a political rather than a technical decision.

Iran has to play a vital match against North Korea in June. A defeat in Pyongyang would mean the end of their hopes of going to South Africa.

Iran has only six points from their five Group B games and must still play against the two Koreas in Pyongyang and Seoul as well as against the United Arab Emirates in Tehran.

The top two teams qualify directly for the World Cup while the third-placed team has an opportunity to qualify via play-offs. (dpa)