World Cup Class of 2018: Iran


LAFC’s Steven Beitashour (lower row, middle) has made the provisional roster of Iran (photo credit: Debbie von Wincklemann)

Population:  81 million
Capital:  Tehran
Team Colors:  White and Red
How Qualified:  Won AFC Group A
Nickname:  Team Melli
5th World Cup
Head Coach:  Carlos Quieroz (POR),
Key Players:  Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen)
Best Performance:  Group Stage (1978, 1998, 2002, 2010)
Can they get to the knockout stage? That’s something Iran has failed to do in four previous World Cups. Their only World Cup win was against the USA in 1998. Iran are three-times Asian Cup Champions, but none since 1976. 
However in this cycle, Iran were the second team to achieve qualification and finished their final group in Asia undefeated with six wins and four draws. In fact, the only time Iran allowed goals in the final group was the finale against Syria as they were trying to reach the playoffs. 
The challenge for Iran now is to transfer that form into the World Cup itself. Their group in Russia will do them no favors either. It has to include getting results against Spain and/or Portugal to get through to the next round. 
A lot will rely on forwards  Sardar Azmoun, Karim Ansarifard, and Reza Ghoochannejhad to get the goals and the defense, which might include LAFC’s Steven Beitashour, to keep Iran in matches. 
Putting whatever political climate aside, Iran does have a good team and it’s defense kept all but three teams off the score sheet in qualification. That is something that is unlikely to happen against the likes of Spain and Portugal. They will need to get results from at least one of those matches if they are to progress in Russia.
June 15:  vs. Morocco in St. Petersburg (10am CT on FOX/Telemundo)
June 20:  vs. Spain in Kazan (1pm CT on FOX/Telemundo)
June 25:  vs. Portugal in Saransk (1pm CT on FOX/Telemundo)

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