Iran name third coach in as many weeks

TEHRAN - Afshin Ghotbi has been hired to take charge of Iran's troubled national side, becoming the team's third coach in the space of three weeks.

The Iranian-American replaces Mohammad Mayelikohan, who quit after less than two weeks without picking a single team.

The inspirational Ali Daei, the world's highest international goalscorer, was sacked unexpectedly on March 28 after Iran suffered the first defeat of their 11-match 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign. The team has been in turmoil ever since.

"As our most crucial priority in the football federation, we have appointed Afshin Ghotbi," Mehdi Taj, a senior Iranian soccer official, told state media.

The three-times Asian champions are currently fourth in Group 2 with six points and three games remaining.

With a top two finish and automatic qualification looking unlikely, three-times qualifiers Iran now face a dogfight to clinch a playoff berth for South Africa 2010.

Ghotbi has extensive national team experience as an assistant coach with the United States and South Korea, where he worked under Dutch coaches Guus Hiddink, Dick Advocaat and Pim Verbeek.

He has coached Iranian side Persepolis and was second in charge of Los Angeles Galaxy and South Korea's Suwon Bluewings.