We conclude our “Team Talks” for Group B of the FIFA World Cup 2018, with Asian powerhouses Iran.
Team : IRAN
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Captain: Masoud Shojaei
Nickname(s): The Lions of Persia
Last Qualified in: 2014
Result in 2014: Eliminated in the Group Stages (28th overall)
Qualified as: AFC Third Round Group A Winners (12 June 2017)
Previous World Cup Appearances: (4 Times) 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014.
Best World Cup Finals Result: Group Stages in 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014.
Alireza Beiranvand, Rashid Mazaheri, Amir Abedzadeh; Ramin Rezaeian, Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh, Morteza Pouraliganji, Pejman Montazeri, Seyed Majid Hosseini, Milad Mohammadi, Roozbeh Cheshmi; Saeid Ezatolahi, Masoud Shojaei, Saman Ghoddos, Mahdi Torabi, Ashkan Dejagah, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ali Gholizadeh, Vahid Amiri; Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Karim Ansarifard, Mahdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun, Reza Ghoochannejhad.
1) Milad Mohammedi:
The 24-year old full back is a very versatile player and can even play as an outright winger. The Akhmat Grozny defender will be a very crucial part of the Iran team who conceded the least number of goals in qualifying. The fact that he plays for the Russian Premier League side, will help him cope with the Russian conditions better too.
2) Ehsan Hajsafi:
The Olympiacos midfielder is Iran’s most experienced player in the current squad. The 7th most capped Iranian with 93 caps, will be the pioneer for Iran’s midfield battle in Russia.
3) Alireza Jahanbaksh:
The 24-year old winger is one of the most sought after young talents in the world of football. The AZ man created history when he became the first ever Asian to become the highest scorer in a major European League; he scored 21 goals in the Eredivisie 2017-18 season for the Dutch side. Carlos Queiroz will surely look to him for goals in Russia, given his hot current form.
4) Sardar Azmoun:
Talking about goals, no one has scored more goals for the Persians than their superstar Sardar Azmoun. Still only 23, he is already Iran’s 5th highest score ever with 23 goals in 31 games. In Iran’s tremendous qualifying campaign, the Rubin Kazan forward scored 11 goals. With such hot form in his kitty and the advantage of plying his trade in Russia, Sardar might just be the ace that Iran need to script the unthinkable.
The “Asiatic Cheetahs” have been in good form in the past year or so, winning 8 of their last 13 international matches, losing 2 and drawing 3. They were the third team to qualify for the World Cup, and they finished their qualifying campaign unbeaten.
Iran have been drawn in Group B alongside Portugal, Spain and Morocco. They will play Morocco in their opening match on 15th of June, followed by Spain and Portugal on 20th and 25th June respectively.
Drawn in a group with European Champions Portugal, Morocco and former World Champions Spain, Iran will require one or two monumental upsets to qualify from their group in the first place (something they are yet to achieve in their history).
Legendary Iranian forward Ali Daei holds the unique record of most international goals by a single player in football history. With 109 goals in 149 appearances for the Iranian National Team, he is also the only player ever to have reached 100 international goals.
How far do you think Iran will progress this year? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Photo by blondinrikard