Iran can be considered World Cup regulars as they have appeared in four of the last six editions of the tournament however, the next step for the nation is navigating a way through the group-stages and appearing in a first ever knockout phase and this might be the year to do that.
Their manager Carlos Queiroz has recently been reinstated by the Iranian FA and has vast experience at both club and international level. He has had stints at Real Madrid, Manchester United – where he was the assistant to Sir Alex Ferguson and spent 8 years as the manager of the Iran national team between 2011-2019, becoming the first manager to lead them to successive world cups.
Iran were dominant during the World Cup Qualifiers having won 12 out of their 14 games and only conceding 5 goals. Iran come into the tournament in good form. Despite losing to Algeria 2-1 in a friendly in June, Iran bounced back by picking up a very impressive 1-0 win against Uruguay in September, before getting a 1-1 draw against the reigning AFCON champions Senegal 4 days later. Ranked 20th in the world, expect Iran to be full of confidence knowing they’re going to have to be at their best to give themselves a chance to get out of the group.
Porto striker Mehdi Taremi is their star man and has made a name for himself by scoring goals in Portugal and in the Champions League. He has made 60 appearances for the national team and will be leading from the front. Along with Taremi, Sardar Azmoun has proven to be a legitimate goal threat scoring 41 goals in his 65 appearances for the national team and will be relied upon to keep up that form for Iran to have success. Lastly, Amir Abedzadeh, the man between the sticks will play a huge role in determining how far they can go.
Being in a tough group with England, Wales and USA, Iran will have to rely on their defensive solidarity as you wouldn’t expect them to be favourites or dominate the ball in any fixture. However, having only conceded 5 goals in qualifying proves their ability to be resolute. Although, it was against lesser competition that’s going to be the recipe for Iran, be defensively resolute and try to hit teams on the counter where Taremi and Azmoun will be able to show their quality.
- England vs Iran (November 21, 16:00 GMT)
- Wales vs Iran (November 25, 13:00 GMT)
- Iran vs United States (November 29, 22:00 GMT)
- Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Payam Niazmand (Sepahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina)
- Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (Sepahan), Abolfazl Jalali (Esteghlal), Hossein Kananizadegan (Al Ahli SC), Shoja Khalilzadeh (Al Ahli SC), Mortza Pouraliganji (Persepolis), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb), Milad Mohammadi (AEK), Ehsan Hajisafi (AEK)
- Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Vejle Boldklub), Ahmad Nourollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Ali Karimi (Kayserispor), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Ali Gholizadeh (Charleroi), Saman Ghoddos (Brentford)
- Forwards: Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen), Karim Ansarifard (Omonia), Mehdi Taremi (Porto)
By: Daniel Oyebamiji / @DanielBamiji
Featured Image: @GabFoligno / Getty Images