Iranian national coach Ivankovic Branko is dedicated to springing a surprise at the upcoming FIFA World Cup, slated for June 9-July 9 in Germany.
Forward-thinking, astute and endowed with a winner's mentality, the 52-year-old Croatian is optimistic about the prospect of meeting the three rivals in Group D -- Mexico, Portugal and the first-timers Angola.The Iranian squad failed to qualify for the FIFA World Cup in Korea-Japan in 2002.
When Ivankovic took charge of the team in 2002 in replace of his colleague Blazevic, he received a side comprising some of the top players in Asia but one that was starting to grow old. He wasted no time in bringing fresh talent into the team and although he lost his first game in charge, a friendly against Slovakia, his influence soon bore fruit on the pitch.
Iran swept past strong continental rivals, including 2002 FIFA World Cup semi-finalists Korea Republic, to win gold at that year's Asian Games in Busan.
Moreover, Ivankovic tackled problems such as team unity by persuading Bundesliga-based star Vahid Hashemian to return from his self-imposed exile.
Hashemian played a pivotal part in helping Iran qualify for Germany, scoring three crucial goals in the qualifying competition.
During his playing days in Croatia, Ivankovic gave few signs that he had a successful career in management ahead of him. Ivankovic's coaching career began in 1991 at Varteks in his hometown of Varadin.
He led them to a seventh-placed finish in the newly formed Croatian First League in 1992/93 and to the quarter-finals of the Cup in the same season.
He moved on to Segesta Sisak for one season in 1995 before changing scene again by taking the reins at Rijeka for a two-year period.
In 1997, he was approached by the Croatia Football Federation to act as assistant to national team coach Miroslav Blazevic and played his part in steering the team to the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup in France the following summer.
A year later he moved to Germany to coach Hannover 96 but left the job in February 2000 and returned home to rejoin the Croatia national team coaching staff, assisting then manager Mirko Jozic, before he accepted the offer from Iran.
Since 2002 Iran
1992-1995 Varteks (CRO)
1995-1996 Segesta (CRO)
1996-1997 NK Rijeka (CRO)
1999-2000 Hannover 96 (GER)