Monday 27 September 2021, 13:00

Oladghobad: We don’t feel inferior to Argentina, Brazil and Spain

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  • Moslem Oladghobad is at his first FIFA Futsal World Cup

  • He is a standout player in a very well-drilled IR Iran side

  • The winger believes his nation can compete against anybody

“Most of the players who are here were on the court that day. We talk about it a lot and we remember how painful it was,” IR Iran captain Ali Hassanzadeh told a few days ago, recalling his side’s cruel semi-final defeat to Russia at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016™. Moslem Oladghobad was not on the court for that defeat and is one of IR Iran’s few competition debutants at Lithuania 2021. Despite his relative lack of experience and the fact that, at 25, he is the youngest player in the squad, he has fully bought into Team Melli’s objectives for the tournament. “This time we want to go all the way to the final and win the competition,” he said, a few hours before his side’s quarter-final against Kazakhstan. Against the meanest defence in the tournament, IR Iran will hope to produce the same kind of attacking display that brought them nine goals and a host of chances against Uzbekistan in their Round-of-16 tie, a game in which the Iranians also conceded eight. Oladghobad knows they might not get away with being so charitable at the back again. “We absolutely have to work on our defence and we need to improve for what lies ahead,” said the winger, who plays for Kerap Alvand. “It was a situation that we didn’t handle well. When we get a big lead, we can’t lose our concentration, and we have to keep working on our backline.”

Having taken an early lead against Uzbekistan and then extended it to four goals in the second period, IR Iran were hanging on by the time the final whistle blew, which partly explained their somewhat muted celebrations at the end. Giving another reason, Oladghobad said: “Uzbekistan are a very good side and though we were proud and relieved to beat them, we do have higher expectations.” Though many see IR Iran as tournament outsiders, Oladghobad believes they are one of several genuine contenders. “We see ourselves as one of the best teams and one of the competition favourites," he said. "Argentina, Brazil and Spain are great sides, for sure, but we don’t feel inferior to them.” Explaining why he feels Team Melli can give as good as they get against the best in the world, Oladghobad, who is arguably the Asian champions’ most gifted player, said: “I’m just part of a side whose biggest asset is teamwork. "I’d rather we function properly as a team than for an individual to stand out. This team has lots of talent anyway, which is why it’s effective.”

Moslem Oladghobad of Iran (1)

Though IR Iran are a well-oiled machine that has responded well to the injury-enforced absence of their best player, Hossein Tayebi, Oladghobad’s individual skills have shone through. His speed, dribbling and finishing were clear for all to see against Uzbekistan. “Yes, having a talented individual is an asset, and my team-mates and the coach tell me to use my skills, but it’s always a question of timing,” he said. “You have to choose the right time to do it.” An admirer of Lionel Messi and Ferrao, Oladghobad went on to say that the senior members of the squad encourage him to express himself: “They are examples for me to follow. They’ve always accepted me for the kind of player I am. They know I’m going to make mistakes and they encourage me. I’m always learning from them.” One experience he now wants to share with them is the lifting of a major trophy.