The Nations of the 21st World Cup – Iran

Iran National Team

Team Melli Iran

Team Melli

Every four years, national pride and footie artistry reach peak levels in a global dance of no small magnitude, the World Cup is here again. This summer, all eyes will be focused on Russia as the time to crown a champion draws ever near. With the sport’s best and brightest from 32 lucky nations on display, it’s time to take a look at what each squad brings to the table. We will dive deep beyond the usual team sheets, we’ll scratch beyond the player names, and get you ready to be the smartest on the couch/bar stool for Russia 2018.

Iran

Qualifying Record (W-D-L) 6-4-0
Current FIFA World Ranking (May 2018) – 36th
World Cup 2014 Finish – 1st Round exit
Russia 2018 Group B (Portugal, Spain, Morocco, Iran)
Formation – 4-2-3-1
Strengths – Very organized defensively, strong counterattacking ability
Weaknesses – Dealing with opposing wingers, very dependent on Ezatolahi to hold the midfield, fitness
Major Threats – Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sardar Azmoun, Saied Ezatolahi

Team Melli were tough opponents in 2014 but didn’t have enough of an attack to make a dent in their group, this time they’ve got a little more weight in attack but Carlos Quieroz’s men have been placed with Africa’s best team and two European heavyweights, the road will be rough.
Are you a fan of Team Melli or just international soccer in general? Get a fresh and authentic National Team Jersey from SoccerPro today! Get one before the tournament starts!

Realistic Federation Goal for RUSSIA 2018:

FFIRI know they have a very tough group. They won’t expect to escape the group but they will be content with respectable displays versus the Europeans and will definitely expect to beat Morocco.


DEFENSE:

Iran’s foundation is a sound defense. That fact will come as no surprise to anyone who has paid close attention to Coach Queiroz over the years. In 2014, they had a team that was hard to play (ask Nigeria and Argentina all about that Iranian defense) against but couldn’t quite hang because the attack was not there to make the defensive efforts pay off. This time around there is an attack to help out and Iran’s defense has been once again stellar. In qualifying, they didn’t concede a goal until the last game of ten when qualification was already assured. *Iran was the 2nd country to qualify after Brazil.

Iran’s defense is a team effort that starts upfront and trickles down to the midfield, that 4-2-3-1 can easily feel like a 6-2-1-1 for the opponent as the midfield drops deep to compress passing lanes (and yes, that’s an active 8 man defense). The centerbacks are veteran 36 year old Jalal Hosseini who hsa over a century of national team caps and the relatively young (he’s 26) Morteza Pouraliganji. Hosseini isn’t the biggest or strongest center back you’ll find in Russia but pound for pound, he may be the toughest, he is hard as nails and keeps his teammates on their toes, and at 36 there are no such things as lost causes with him, he will chip in with a goal now and then too. Pouraliganji is prone to a few mental errors here and there but his CB partner covers for him well and while he may make the odd error, he is such a naturally gifted player that the pluses more than make up for those few gaffes. The Al-Sadd’s ability to stay calm and play the ball out of defense are also vital for the pressure Iran soaks in over the course of a game.

At fullback the Iranians have some stellar players who play perfectly into the idea Queiroz has crafted. Milad Mohammadi at left back is probably the star turn, a modern day wingback with tremendous pace and lungs, he will legitimately force opposing wingers to switch wings to avoid him though on occasion he can tend to get caught upfront and if he’s not being covered amply, it presents a problem. The starting right back will likely be the flashy Ramin Rezaeian whose main asset is his speed, he joins counterattacks frequently and can hit a mean setpiece. The fullbacks in Iran’s system spend a lot of time defending but they have the pace and lungs to join the attack when the breaks spring.

The starting goalie is Alireza Beiranvand who is Iran’s best option despite not being a plus. He is capable of head-scratching errors that would not be out of place at @whatahowler. His defense shields him excellently most times but the last line of defense is probably the weakest link in the entire Iranian squad.

MIDFIELD

The midfield’s first job is to provide cover for the defense. The two defensive midfielders are Ehsan Hajfasi of Olympiakos and the impressive Saied Ezatolahi of Russian side Amkar Perm. Ezatolahi is particularly vital and impressive, he has a calmness and vision for the game that give Iran another gear when he plays. Unfortunately for Team Melli, Ezatolahi is banned for the first game of the World Cup and that may be what dooms them to yet another first round exit. Queiroz will likely start Ali Karimi or Masoud Shojaei in his place and neither man offers the preternatural calmness of Ezatolahi but they’ll likely be asked to eschew any creativity and just sit alongside Hajfasi in front of the back four.
Ahead of the defensive midfield two, Saman Ghoddos and the team star Alireza Jahanbakhsh will look to help spring attacks and and pour in goals when possible. The vital difference between this side and the 2014 side is the emergence of these two alongside the guys in attack. Jahanbakhsh was the top scorer in the Dutch Eredivisie…from the wing! The AZ Alkmaar star has immense ability on the ball but it’s his hardwork off the ball that really make him stand out. Saman Ghoddos is a relative newcomer to the squad but has done well for Ostersunds in Sweden and was the subject of a national team tug of war as the Swedes wanted him to star for them too. He is a great finisher upfront with pace and natural football smarts and like Jahanbakhsh, he is a very hard working player.

Slightly in front of and in between the two wingmen, Carlos Quieroz will look to play Ashkan Dejagah. In 2014, Dejagah was the attacking star for Iran and had to carry the weight of the attack. He has a lot of quality help this time and may even miss out on starting because of injury issues. If Dejagah doesn’t start in that pocket between the wingers and the center forward, Queiroz ill likely push Ghoddos in that hole and play Mehdi Taremi on the wing. Taremi is another player with a foundation built of hardwork. He’s another one like Ghoddos and Jahanbakhsh who can get among the goals.

Sardar Azmoun

Sardar Azmoun of Iran

STRIKERS

The man leading the line will be Sardar Azmoun of Rubin Kazan. He’s the excellent foil for the three attacking midfielders behind him. Great in the air, excellent with his back to goal, and his box movement make him a handful. The three men behind him can all play as attackers and so Iran has way more in viable attacking talent at this World Cup than they did last time around.

If Azmoun fails to shine, Carlos Quieroz has Karim Ansarifard who had a stellar campaign in Greece with Olympiakos waiting on the wings, and can also call on Kaveh Rezaei or Reza Ghoochannejhad who also has World Cup experience from ‘14.
Iran’s attack is loaded and will be ready. The hardworking team ethos Carlos Queiroz has built since 2011 starts with this hardworking attack.

GAME by GAME (v Morocco, v Spain, v Portugal)

*Keys to Morocco game: Can Hakim Ziyech be kept from influencing the game? Can Iran keep Morocco’s fast passing combinations firmly in front of them and maintain defensive shape and discipline? Will Ezatolahi’s absence be crippling? Can the wingbacks get decent crosses to Sardar Azmoun?
Prediction: The absence of Saied Ezatolahi will probably be too much against a Moroccan midfield that’s very fluid. This should be a very close game but Morocco should edge it ever so slightly.

*Keys to Spain game: How will Iran cope with Spain’s movement in the final third? Can Beiranvand stay away from backbreaking errors? Will Ezatolahi’s return be enough? Can Iran’s front four cause enough trouble to Spain’s defense?
Prediction: It feels unfair that Iran will likely come into this game needing a result because Spain’s movement behind defenses has improved from the last WC when they mainly played in front of defenses. Ezatolahi’s result means Iran will absolutely give Spain all they can handle but it won’t be enough, the Spanish should win this.

*Keys to Portugal game: What kind of form will Cristiano Ronaldo be in? Will Portugal look to take the initiative or sit back? Can Iran punish the Portuguese midfield with the movement of their three attacking midfielders? Will Azmoun click?
Prediction: This smells of an upset for Iran. Carlos Queiroz will definitely be ready to get one over his countrymen and his team matches up well with Portugal. The Portuguese have an X-factor in Cristiano but if Iran can keep him quiet, they’ll get at least a draw from this one and might even get famous win!

carlos queiroz

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz

Here’s the possible Iranian Roster for Russia 2018
GOALKEEPERS (3): Alireza Beiranvand, Rashid Mazaheri, Hossein Hosseini

DEFENDERS (8): Vouria Ghafouri, Jalal Hosseini, Morteza Pouraliganji, Milad Mohammadi, Ramin Rezaeian, Pejman Montazeri, Mohammad Khanzadeh, Said Aghaei

MIDFIELDERS (7): Saied Ezatolahi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Ashkan Dejagah, Masoud Shojaei, Saman Ghoddos, Ali Karimi, Vahid Amiri

FORWARDS (5): Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi, Karim Ansarifard, Reza Ghoochannejhad

Piece by Tise Okuo, frequent Center Circle writer, a recovering fan of Arsenal FC and lover of football.

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

About the author: Tise Okuo

 

Soccer nut. Arsenal fan, used to enduring hard times. Admirer of the purity of tiki-taka, total football, catenaccio, and any other system bold enough to be itself. In my spare time, I am a professional thinker. Engage with me on Google+.

 

Recent posts in World Cup

 

No Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 

 

 
 
 
 
 

Post of the Week