World Cup 2018: Group B Team Profile – IranJune 9, 2018
Nickname: Team Melli, Persian Stars
Best World Cup: Group Stage, 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014
Last World Cup: Group Stage, 2014
Odds to win: 500/1 (Bet365)
How did they reach the World Cup?
Iran have earned a second consecutive World Cup place for the first time in their history, following a strong, unbeaten qualifying campaign.
Despite head coach Carlos Queiroz resigning and then returning to his post in the space of a month in 2015, the Persian Stars were undeterred by the confusion.
As one of the higher ranked teams, Iran had a bye in the first round. Yet, they won 12 times, including beating Guam 6-0 twice, as well as drawing six matches to top both of their groups and claim their spot in next month’s showpiece.
It will the second World Cup that Queiroz will be in charge of the Iranian team, following their 2014 journey.
The Portuguese manager previously lead Real Madrid in the 2003/04 season,, having served at Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United for five years overs two spells.
In his early days as a coach, Queiroz led his home country between 1991 and 1993, before returning in 2008, leaving after being knocked out at the 2010 World Cup to Spain.
Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun was Iran’s star striker in qualifying, netting 11 times in 14 matches.
Despite being only 23, he is already the country’s fifth highest scorer with 23 goals in 31 matches.
He has not found the same form at club level with just 29 in seven seasons, but Iran will not mind, as long as Azmoun continues to perform for the Persian Stars, with fellow striker Mehdi Taremi beside him.
Former Premier League midfielder Ashkan Dejagah is a key component of the Iran side, featuring as an attacking midfielder, but has the ability to play out wide.
The 31-year-old has played in the Bundesliga and English top-flight, a rarity among the Persian Stars’ squad and experience that will be invaluable if they are to progress at the World Cup.
Dejagah played for Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg (twice) in Germany, while featuring for Fulham and his current side Nottingham Forest in England.
The German youth international switched allegiances to Iran following Queiroz’s appointment and has since made 44 appearances for his home nation, playing all three games at the 2014 World Cup and was temporarily captain from 2016 to 2017.
Chances of Spain playing Iran
Iran will come up against former world champions Spain in their second group match on 20th June at Kazan Arena.
It would be one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history if Team Melli can win, but will be wary that they also face European champions Portugal in the same group.
Should they progress to the knockout rounds for the first time in their history and continue on an incredible journey, Iran will only meet Spain again in the final or third-place play-off.
World Cup Prediction
Iran scored 36 goals in their 18 matches, conceding only five, so have firepower and a strong defence. But ultimately, they were never really tested with South Korea their most difficult opponents over the two groups.
Spain and Portugal are among the best teams in the world, the former being one of the favourites to win the World Cup, meaning Iran could become overrun and outclassed.
With Morocco also in the same boat, it will likely be a fight to see who has the consolation of not finishing bottom.
World Cup Squad
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beyranvand, Rashi Mazaheri, Amir Abedzadeh.
Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian, Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh, Morteza Pouraliganji, Pejman Montazeri, Seyed Majid Hosseini, Milad Mohammadi, Roozbeh Cheshmi, Ehsan Hajsafi.
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatollahi, Masoud Shojaei, Saman Ghoddos, Mehdi Torabi, Ashkan Dejagah, Omid Ebrahimi, Vahid Amiri, Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Forwards: Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun, Reza Ghoochannejhad.