Iran and South Korea booked their spots at the 2014 World Cup within seconds of each other back in June 2013 but these twins of qualification have gone very separate ways as they prepare for the big event in June.
Since then, South Korea have played no fewer than 13 warm-up games for Brazil while Iran, set to face Argentina, Bosnia and Nigeria in Brazil, have yet to play one. Team Melli, as the national team is called in Tehran, have managed just 270 minutes of action in the past eight months, all mandatory 2015 Asian Cup qualifiers against Thailand (twice) and Lebanon, not exactly the kind of opposition Iran needs to be taking on.
No wonder Carlos Queiroz is a little miffed. The difficulty of attracting top teams to Tehran for friendly games is not the only problem. A September training camp in his native Portugal, including what would have been a very useful game against Ghana, was cancelled last August due to a lack of funds. The Iranian Football Federation blamed this on the US-led international sanctions that prevented the organisation collecting monies owed by international bodies.
And last week a planned trip to South Africa in April was also scrapped because too many important players were unavailable.
"Over the past 32 months that I've been here as Iran football coach, I always tried to do my best and keep the team fully prepared," said Queiroz. "I have to call my friends [Sir Alex] Ferguson, [José] Mourinho, and [Fabio] Capello to get their advice for better decisions because I am not magician to do without financial support."