Much like their Group B counterpart Morocco, we can’t really be sure what to make of Iran at first glance. At first glance, there aren’t that many superstars, and personal politics in Iran don’t do the team any favors. That aside, they were quite good defensively during the qualification campaign, winning their group handily, and qualifying for consecutive Cups for the first time in their history. But is there enough of an upset factor to get past the other teams in this group?
Photo courtesy of http://www.flagpedia.net.
Nickname: Team Melli (The National Team)
Total appearances (including 2018): 5
Best finish: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014)
Current manager: Carlos Queiroz (Portugal)
Caps leader: Javad Nekounam (151)
Leading scorer(s): Ali Daei (109)
Date of Qualification: June 12, 2017
FIFA ranking at tournament draw: 34
June 15 vs. Morocco – Saint Petersburg
June 20 vs. Spain – Kazan
June 25 vs. Portugal – Saransk
Coming into this World Cup, Iran has won only one match, which was in 1998 in a politically charged match against the United States. While they’ve never gone without a point in any of their campaign (getting a draw in one of their other three appearances), they’ve never made it out of the first round. Their defense was spectacular in AFC qualification, finishing ahead of South Korea for second, and only a late equalizer in their final match allowed Syria into the playoff. Chronologically, they were the second team to qualify, finishing the deal on June 12.
With Portugal and Spain ahead of them, Iran faces a large uphill battle. They are ranked higher than Morocco coming into the tournament, so I hope both of them can earn a point, but will it necessarily be enough? An interesting side note: their manager, Carlos Queiroz, was born in Portugal, and they play each other on June 25 in Saransk.
Iran only had one goal in Brazil four years ago, and it came from one of their star strikers, Reza Ghoochannejhad of Dutch club Heerenveen. He’ll be 31 when the tournament rolls around, but he should hopefully be Iran’s dynamic playmaker. To be honest, I don’t really know what else to write here – their defense is improved, but because of their previous history in the Cup, little is expected of them. But maybe this 2018 team will prove the naysayers wrong.
Reza Ghoochannejhad should make Iran’s offense go. Photo courtesy of http://www.bigsoccer.com.
Iran’s crest. Photo courtesy of http://www.footballlogosandkits.com