Iran took off to South Africa on Tuesday for their first pre-World Cup training camp with only 11 players and no goalkeeper, local media reported.
The camp, set to last until May 7, is Iran’s first significant gathering since qualifying for the 2014 tournament last June and comes just 57 days ahead of the team’s first match in Brazil.
But four Iranian clubs — Esteghlal, Sepahan, Foulad and Teraktor-Sazi, who are still involved in the Asian Champions League — refused to let players join the national team.
The poor turnout can only be considered a severe setback for the national side’s prospects as a previous training camp was cancelled in September, due to a lack of funds.
According to the Fars news agency, 28 players were called up by Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz for the South Africa trip in which the team is expected to play four friendlies.
Queiroz is also without captain Javad Nekounam, who plays with Kuwait SC, as well as those who play in Europe.
Some of the missing players will join the national team as soon as their club obligations are fulfilled, Iranian media said.
Since qualifying for Brazil, Iran has played only one friendly against Guinea, succumbing to a 2-1 defeat in Tehran.
In Brazil, Iran are drawn in Group F alongside heavyweights Argentina, reigning African champions Nigeria and newcomers Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Iran will open their campaign, the fourth time Iran has reached the finals, on June 16.