A dark horse at the best of times, Iran drew the group of death in the 2018 World Cup with Spain and Portugal, meaning their success at this tournament will be metered. However, the bar is relatively low in World Cup history for Iran, so there is plenty of room for this team to have success and make their supporters proud in Russia. With only one win in World Cup history, coming in 1998 over the United States, Iran set their international pace that year as well with a 20th place finish (omitting their 1978 14th place finish with a record of 0-3-1). Can they succeed? Well, while their group is stacked against them their young star players could carry them to underdog success.
Key players for Iran:
Sardar Azmoun – Iran could have a real impressive star on their hands her with 23 year old striker Sardar Azmoun. He is a continentally recognized player who is just coming into his prime as a centre forward. He has been honing his skills in Russia last season, managing 5 goals and an impressive 5 assists in 26 league games. His team, Rubin Kazan were a mid table 10th finish last season, partly in thanks to his offensive skills. As a player to watch now and for the future Azmoun is an impressive youngster with a lot to prove.
Saeid Ezatolahi – Another youngster, another Russian League player, and another impressive talent for Iran. Midfielder Saed Ezatolahi is a rather unknown player globally, but has been bestowed the title of “Persian Pogba” by onlookers. He played for Amkar Perm in the Russian League on loan last season from Rotov, who managed a 13th place finish. Last season he only scored one goal, but that isn’t his area of expertise. Look for Ezatolahi to be moving the ball in transition from defence to offence. He is a physical player who can ping a striking long ball pass, outletting team offence. Making his international senior team debut in Russia, keep an eye on this emerging 21 year old talent.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh – The pound for pound best player skill wise on the Iranian football team is Jahanbakhsh from the Dutch league’s AZ Alkmaar. The 24 year old attacking winger was slicing and dicing through opposition in the Netherlands, racking up 21 goals and 12 assists in 33 league games last season. A crucial member to this young, inexperienced national team for Iran, Jahanbakhsh can bring that top European pedigree to the team and lead by example in the department of goal scoring.
Okay, I think I have just turned myself into a supporter of team Iran. Throw the dark horse tag on the team and send them off to battle against world football giants, im betting on the underdog team from Iran! They have an exciting, young core of star players who are all taking strides in European leagues and gaining the international legitimacy for team Iran. Alright, i’m ordering my kit and all in – lets see some World Cup upsets from the unlikely hands of team Iran.