Branko Ivankovic insists he is not willing to take over as Iran’s national team coach at the World Cup, as well as claiming he has had nothing to do with Dragan Skocic’s reported dismissal.
Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported Skocic was sacked on Monday, despite Iran winning 15 of their 18 games during his tenure, after taking over from Marc Wilmots in February 2020.
Although Skocic reportedly met with the Iranian FA’s board and has not officially been dismissed, reports also suggest his sacking is imminent.
Team Melli topped their World Cup qualification group ahead of South Korea to book an automatic place in Qatar, losing their only game of the AFC’s third round of qualifying in the final international window, once qualification had already been secured.
Ivankovic, who is still contracted to coach Oman and is one of five Croatians to have been Iran’s national team boss, asserted he would feel “awkward” replacing his compatriot.
Iran 2-0 Lebanon: Iran finish the third round qualification for World Cup 2022 with a victory. Overall, they dropped just five points in the final round (W8 D1 L1). pic.twitter.com/xXW2WRLT52
— The Analyst (@OptaAnalyst) March 29, 2022
“I’m very embarrassed. Iranian journalists have been calling me all day, it’s very awkward that they put me in that context, because it seems like I’m tearing down Skocic,” he told Sportske novosti.
“You know what kind of status I have in Iran. Whenever there is a story about the new coach, they mention me and Carlos Queiroz. However, nobody from the Iranian federation talked to me, and Oman extended my contract until 2024.
“In order to accept such a job, a lot of things would have to be solved, these are not easy decisions, and it is especially inconvenient for me that I would have to replace Skocic. But I’m not working behind his back. I had nothing to do with his eventual dismissal.”
Ivankovic is a known quantity in Iran, leading the national team to the 2006 World Cup as well as taking Persepolis FC to their first AFC Champions League final in 2018, before eventually losing to Kashima Antlers.
Team Melli received one of the lighter groups for AFC teams in Qatar, meanwhile, after being drawn with England, Wales and the United States.