Iran

Full Squad:

Goalkeepers: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan).

Defenders: Hossein Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir-Hossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal), Mehrdad Pouladi (Persepolis).

Midfielders: Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan).

Forwards: Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham), Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton), Karim Ansarifard (Tractor Saz, on loan from Persepolis), Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal).

Likely Iran XI For 2014 World Cup

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.

Pages 1 2