Iran dominated their World Cup Qualifiers, with only set-backs coming through South Korea (a tie and a loss). They were the first Asian team to qualify for the World Cup, but now they face difficult times as the country is in turmoil. Even if they manage to put all the domestic issues behind them and focus solely on football for 270 minutes, it’s difficult to see Iran advancing from Group B. The Iranians should be content with each win.
How do they play?
Qualifiers provided goals galore as the Iranians scored on average 2,54 times and conceded a mere 0,42 goals per game. Of course, the opposition wasn’t the cream of the crop, yet Iran attacked in a relentless fashion. More recently, the team swapped out it’s head coach in September to bring in the legendary Portuguese Carlos Queiroz, who led the team in the previous two World Cups. Expect Queiroz to bring back a defense-orientated mindset.
Why they can win?
Four years back, it seemed nearly impossible that Iran would even have the slimmest of chances to advance to the Round of 16. Yet, they proved that (nearly) everything is possible once you put passion behind it. Alireza Beiranvand parried Cristiano Ronaldo’s penalty kick and they ended up losing both to Portugal and Spain by a single point. With Queiroz back, many have their hopes up for a similar performance.
Why they can lose?
To advance from Group B, they need to at least equal or better the likes of England, Wales, and the USA. Surely not an easy task. Iran has yet to make it through the Group Stage and it’s rather likely that they won’t break the curse this time asking. England is always in contention to win the World Cup, the United States has a youthful squad with a bright future and Wales has experience across the board.
The leading stars
The 27-year-old Sardar Azmoun is the team’s undisputed leader, having scored 41 goals (!) in just 65 matches. After Russia 2018, Azmoun decided to give up international football, only to quickly return and start scoring again. The mental leadership belongs to Ehsan Hajsafi, the defenseman from AEK Athens, who will also wear the captain’s armband.
The fresh faces
The 2017 Under-17 World Cup was a big success for the Iranians – they topped their group ahead of Germany and defeated Mexico in the Round of 16. Only later they succumbed to Spain, led by Ferran Torres, in the Quater-Finals. Allahyar Sayyadmanesh, who led the team then, is now 21 and plays for Hull City. In 2018, The Guardian included Sayyadmanesh in the 60 World’s Best Youth Players list.