Iran: World Cup 2014 Team Preview
Best Finish: Group Stage (1978, 1998, 2006)
Manager: Carlos Queiroz
Captain: Javad Nekounam
This is Iran’s fourth appearance in the competition, and they are yet to make it out of the group stages. This trend looks set to continue as they enter as one of FIFA’s lowest ranking teams, and are many people’s pick to become the whipping boys of the tournament.
Head coach Carlos Queiroz managed his adoptive Portugal in the previous World Cup, but his defensive, counter-attacking system failed to work and his side failed to score in three out of the four games played.
Iran are similarly pragmatic and only conceded two goals in eight qualifying games, emphasizing their defensive stubbornness and mental resiliency. On the other hand, surprise 1-0 defeats to Lebanon and Uzbekistan shows that they lack a real out-and-out goal scorer.
In the end, qualification came fairly easily with the country winning the Asia Football Confederation Group A, doing the double over a strong South Korea team in the process. Pretty impressive results and some which suggest there might be a bit more about this side than many claim.
Still, Queiroz’s team will still arrive in Brazil as rank outsiders. With their current place is FIFA’s rankings and their past disappointment of World Cup competition, the best hope for The Persian Stars is reaching the round of the last 16. They certainly won’t be as bad as many people expect.
Key player – Javad Nekounam
Nekounam is the country’s captain and longest serving, active player. The former Osasuna man, who spent 6 years representing the Spanish outfit, plays as a defensive midfielder, breaking up opposition attacks and starting attacks with simple but effective passes. Scoring the solitary goal in the home win against South Korea, he went on to net a further three goals in the qualifying phase, including a brace against Indonesia.
For the 4-2-3-1 formation to be effective, Iran will need Nekounam to have more possession than any other player within their ranks. If Iran can afford him the time to lift his head, expect Nekounam to caress the ball around the park and hammer the occasional strike towards the opposition goal.
Making 135 appearances for his country over a thirteen year stretch, Nekounman played twice in Iran’s last World Cup outing and will be keen to impress on what looks to be his last ever major tournament.