If you enjoy the footballing tactics of the Mourinho Inter Milan era then you’ll love what Iran can bring to the table.
As a defence first side, Iran will look to park men behind the ball and hit you on the counter as often as possible. It’s a formula that worked in qualifying where they nearly went a whole campaign without conceding.
In the 2014 World Cup, Iran kept Lionel Messi at bay for 91 minutes before Leo’s late goal finally won the game for Argentina. Against Spain and Portugal, they’ll keep 10 players behind the ball while looking for opportunities to break out.
Boring, yes, but also pragmatic. Team Melli simply doesn’t have the class to play open football against the kind of opposition they’ll face at this level.
Iran Squad Outlook
Alireza Beiranvand, Seyed Hossein Hosseini, Rashid Mazaheri, Amir Abedzadeh; Ramin Rezaeian, Voria Ghafouri, Steven Beitashour, Seyed Jalal Hosseini, Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh, Morteza Pouraliganji, Mohammad Ansari, Pejman Montazeri, Seyed Majid Hosseini, Milad Mohammadi, Omid Norafkan, Saeid AGhaei, Roozbeh Cheshmi; Saeid Ezatolahi, Masoud Shojaei, Ahmad Abdolahzadeh, Saman Ghoddos, Mahdi Torabi, Ashkan Dejagah, Omid Ebrahimi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ali Karimi, Soroush Rafiei, Ali Gholizadeh, Vahid Amiri; Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Karim Ansarifard, Mahdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Kaveh Rezaei
Squad Talk: As you’d expect there aren’t many players you may have heard of in this Iran squad, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any good.
Most of the Iranian squad is full of foreign-born players who have Iranian heritage. Iran came out on top in Asia’s Group. Perhaps more than many would believe it’s the Iranians 5th time at the World Cup Finals (which also included a trip to Brazil in 2014).
Alireza Jahanbakhsh May find himself in England very soon.
Forwards Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun are the men trusted with making sure the Iranian counterattacks will flow. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, 24, in particular, has been a European footballing sensation leading the scoring charts in the Eredivisie (for AZ Alkmaar) with 21 goals (and 12 assists).
I imagine a good world cup will see Alireza Jahanbakhsh’s value skyrocket as the 2018 domestic season approaches. He’s already been linked with Napoli (pre-Carlo Ancelotti) and a decent World Cup campaign could see him make his way to England.
Outside of the two forwards and goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, Iran is a team that lacks any real quality or talent throughout its ranks. Most of the squad players in the lower leagues around the world and have done nothing of merit to deserve being discussed.
Alireza Beiranvand, is a 6’5 monster. Playing his trade for Persepolis in the Persian Gulf Pro League it’s fair to say the 25-year old isn’t exactly David De Gea between the sticks. His size allows for him to reach the majority of the goal however his lack of agility means he gets beaten from low angles with relative ease.
If he performs well then Iran could find themselves in the conversation to escape group B, So an awful lot of this world cup campaign could rest on his shoulders.
King of the Country
Whilst the likes of Karemi have possessed more talent, none have had the impact of Ali Daei. The former Iranian International has a goalscoring record to rival the world’s best on the world’s stage. Netting an astonishing 109 goals in 149 games for the Team Melli.
His tally of 149 appearances unsurprisingly makes him the most capped player in Iran’s history. It also puts him 14th in the all-time list of international appearance-makers from any country. He featured in both the 1998 and 2006 World Cups. Although he left his shooting boots at home on both occasions having failed to score a single time.
At club level, he spent a notable one-year stint at Bayern Munich having been earmarked by club legend Franz Beckenbauer as a “world-class striker”. His short spell in Germany saw him pick up a league and cup double. While at the end of his time with Bayern he was named the Asian Footballer of the Year.
Who’s the Gaffa
Carlos Quieroz has been at the helm of Team Melli since 2011. He has twice managed the Portuguese national team as well as the UAE and South Africa.
His club management history includes two stints as an assistant at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson. Where he worked with Roy Keane, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Ryan Giggs, Paul Scholes, and a teenaged Cristiano Ronaldo.
To add to his stellar CV. Quieroz has held head gaffer jobs at Sporting CP and Real Madrid. Where he worked with Zinedine Zidane, Luis Ronaldo, Luís Figo, and David Beckham. In short, Quieroz is the real deal with a sterling managerial pedigree.
Likely Group Finish: 4th
As much as I’d love to say Iran is going to storm this world cup, the bottom line is they’re probably not going to do anything other than turn up. acting as drill cones for the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo & Andres Iniesta.
Lazy Fan Fact:
Iran’s best win was a 19-0 win over Guam; their worst defeat was a 6-1 loss to Turkey. Both matches were friendlies…woah. 19-0.