Mehdi Mahdavikia is under no illusions as to the size of the task facing Iran in their bid to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.
The Eintracht Frankfurt forward believes it is essential that the national team reach the final 32 of football's showpiece event, partly to help them recuperate from recent destabilizing incidents.
Iran have six points from five matches so far and are in need of serious points starting in North Korea on June 6.
"Playing in North Korea is extremely difficult. Likewise, in South Korea," he told German media, according to Persianfootball.com.
"Meanwhile, we shouldn't neglect the UAE match since they have nothing to lose and will play against us without any tension.
"The presence in the World Cup is the dream of all our players and Iranian football fans. This could be extremely beneficial for our football. I believe that fate of our football in the next four years will depend on our qualification to World Cup."
The former Hamburg star welcomed the appointment of Afshin Ghotbi as head coach. The ex-South Korean assistant has already named his first squad and recently went to Germany to see the player in action.
Mahdavikia said, "It was a very productive talk. We went though all plans and also what had happened in Team Melli before. As a player with over a decade presence in the national team, I shared all my experience and information with him.
"An advantage of Ghotbi is his familiarity with Iranian football given his two years of experience in Iran. Ghotbi's other strength is his knowledge of our opponents. He has worked in South Korea for many years and knows our rivals very well.
"All three matches are important. We should take each one separately. The first step in North Korea is very important. If we can defeat North Korea, we will have a much easier route and play with better morale in Tehran.
"We have to advance match by match. We also have to observe the situation in our group. Our aim is to qualify, but this will also depend on what will happen in other matches in the group."