Outright odds: 3000/1
To win group: 50/1
To qualify: 7/1
Full squad: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan), 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), Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan), 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).
Manager: Carlos Queiroz
World Cup record: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006)
4 years ago Carlos Quieroz had genuine hopes of going deep into the World Cup with Portugal – this time around a point for his side would be a massive achievement and many have even that as overachieving for Iran.
This World Cup has been noted for one of the most explosive opening rounds in a group stage in tournament history – never have so many goals been scored so early since 1958 – but Quieroz’s managerial style suggests that Iran may curb the trend.
With Portugal he engineered goalless draws with the Ivory Coast and Brazil before a 1-0 loss to Spain in what was a dour encounter at the last 16 stage and not much has changed in terms of the tactical approach for the former Real Madrid boss.
Iran earned 16 points in qualifying thanks to scoring eight goals and letting in just 2 – their 10 clean sheets at that stage is the most of any side in Brazil – beating South Korea to the top spot but finishing on top of a pile that had Qatar, Lebanon, and Uzbekistan as the only other meaningful opposition.
The stomach they showed in beating South Korea twice 1-0 was an impressive feat for a side so inexperienced but they are the highest ranked side they’ve faced in the 25 competitive games since the 2010 World Cup and a lack of quality opposition in the run up does not bode well. Iran were massively short of cutting edge in friendlies against Belarus and Montenegro (both 0-0) and Angola (1-1), and were worryingly beaten by Guinea and Oman (comprehensively) beforehand.
Hopes from a forward perspective rest with two English based players – the new golden boy is Reza Ghoochannejhad (unsurprisingly, known at the valley as simple good old Reza) – Charlton’s Iran-born, Dutch-raised forward who made his international debut last year and scored six goals in as many games in 2013 – although he scored just 1 league goal in 15 starts this year.
Ashkan Dejagah of Fulham was more impressive, scoring 5 in 22 and creating a good impression at times, but apart from that quality is severely lacking with the Iranian league the only experience for most of these players and it looks likely to be three and out for Iran.