Iran are set to appear in consecutive World Cups for the first time, and with the aid of Carlos Queiroz, they aim to make history in Russia.
Iran are participating in their fifth ever World Cup tournament and are coming to Russia with a hope to progress beyond the first round. Iran have had some notable performances before in World Cup history, specifically against USA back in 1998 and then holding off Argentina in 2014 until a late Lionel Messi goal spoiled the party for the Asians.
The pressure this time to perform better than in their previous appearances is more considering their form in qualifiers coming into this World Cup. Additionally, looking at their last four World Cup finals, Iran have recorded only a single victory in those editions, and will aim to do better.
Under the tutelage of Carlos Queiroz and his experience in leading teams into the World Cup, Iran finished their qualifying campaign unbeaten to reach Russia. But the big question remains whether they could go past a somewhat tricky Group B by their standards.
Group and Fixtures
Iran’s first game of the tournament represents their best chance to achieve some momentum when they face Morocco. Considering they might not be able to get results in the other two fixtures, the game against Morocco is a solid chance for them to get a win to start their campaign.
Iran then meet one of the pre-tournament’s favourites, Spain and if they can get a result from this game, then they surely would stand a chance of progression should they also have won against Morocco. They play their last game of the group against Portugal, who will also be looking to progress into the next round.
Carlos Queiroz has conditioned his squad for this tournament and picked most of the players that played through the qualifying campaign, imminently submitting his 23-man squad for the World Cup.
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo)
Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Notthingham Forest), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis)
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds FK), Mehdi Taremi (Al Gharafa), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen)
Iran have the experience in their squad to take on a big tournament such as the World Cup. There are, however, some players who Carlos Queiroz might rely on heavily in the tournament. There are only so many players who ply their trade in Europe, while the rest play for teams outside of it. Queiroz, however, has brought them all to pace based on his own experience.
Some of the players that should be kept an eye on include striker Sardar Azmoun, who currently plays for Rubin Kazan in Russia and 6 ft. 5′ goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand. While Azmoun might not have been impressive enough at club level, he boasts a good record for the national side.
The striker has scored 23 goals in his 31 appearances for Iran, and considering his size, frame and the style Iran like to play with, he will be a good asset up front. As much as they will be relying on Azmoun to score the goals, Beiranvand will be responsible for protecting the goal when they play teams like Morocco, Spain and Portugal.
It has not been a smooth ride for Carlos Queiroz being the manager of Iran off the field. On it, he has made this team work, which has yielded results. Queiroz has been responsible for this total transformation of the team which has been overly inconsistent in their appearances at the World Cup.
He became Iran’s manager and slowly started implementing his ways, and his work in including many players with Iranian connection, but plying their trade and living in Europe has made a massive difference to this side. Over the years, the team, integrated with the foreign nationals has developed into a complete team.
Queiroz also led Iran into the 2014 World Cup and has again helped them qualify for Russia, which will be the first time in the nation’s history playing in two consecutive world tournaments.
Potential Starting-XI (4-3-3) Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Mohammadi; Dejagah, Ezatolahi, Hajsafi; Jahanbakhsh, Azmoun, Ghoochannejhad
Iran played exceptionally well in their qualifying campaign and remained unbeaten throughout. But, as they come into the World Cup, their rather difficult placement in Group B suggests they might not have a chance to advance to the knockout phase of the tournament.
Between them and an entry into the next round stand pre-tournament favourites Spain, European Champions Portugal and a rather underrated Morocco team. While there are many suggesting that Morocco could play the dark horse role, there seems to be very little chance from an outside perspective to see Iran moving into the next round. All we can expect are some good performances in Russia.