Dragan Skocic was appointed as the new manager of Iran, Amir-Mehdi Alavi, the spokesman of Iran Football Federation announced on Thursday, ending months of speculations surrounding the Iranian hot seat.
Skocic, 51, takes over from Belgian Marc Wilmots who parted ways with Iran following a 2-1 loss to Iraq at the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers last November.
The appointment of Skocic came as a surprise to Iranian fans as ex-managers of Iran Amir Qalenoei and Ali Daei seemed to be the front-runners for the job.
Skocic, former head coach of Persian Gulf Pro League sides Malavan Bandar Anzali and Foolad Khuzestan, led San’at Naft Abadan to a decent sixth place in the Iranian league this season before stepping down from his role last Tuesday – claiming eight wins in 18 matches.
Former midfielder of Spanish side Las Palmas will be the fifth Croatian to take charge of Iran’s national team – following fellow countrymen Stanko Poklepovic (1993-94), Tomislav Ivic (1997-98), Miroslav Blazevic (2001) and Branko Ivankovic (2002-2006).
Skocic will be facing a tough task in leading Iran to the final round of World Cup qualifiers as his side currently sits third in Group C of the qualifiers with six points, trailing Iraq and Bahrain by five and three points respectively, albeit with a game in hand.
In Skocic’s first official match on the bench, Iran will face Hong Kong at home on March 26 before playing away to Cambodia five days later.
However, Skocic’s two decisive contests will come in early June when his team squares off against top-two contenders of the group Bahrain and Iraq at home.
Eight group winners plus best four runners-up will advance to the next round of the qualifiers.