They may be ranked as the best team in Asia, but one cannot dismiss the fact that they will be the ultimate underdogs in Brazil. Boasting a captain who managed 149 matches in the La Liga for Osasuna, namely Javad Nekounam, and Ashkan Dejagah, who has played for the likes of Wolfsburg, Hertha Berlin, and Fulham, Tomos Knox wonders why have the press condemned the Iranian national football team to defeat?

Iran first qualified for the World Cup in 1978, beating Australia in Tehran to secure their qualification. Unfortunately, they crashed out in Round One, losing to the Netherlands and Peru, But still clinching a surprise 1-1 draw against Scotland, with Iraj Danaeifard grabbing the equaliser. Since then, the Iranians have qualified twice; in 1998 and more recently, the 2006 World Cup in Germany. In both they reached the group stages, but progressed no further.

Iran have qualified for the most prestigious footballing competition in the world on three seperate occasions, and departed on three seperate occasions having progressed no further than the group stages, so why should 2014 be any different?

The squad that manager Carlos Queiroz selected for the 2014 World Cup comprises mainly of Iran based players, but there are also players playing their trade further afield, for example, defender Steven Beitashour who plays for the Vancouver Whitecaps, and Alireza Haghigi, a goalkeeper playing for Sporting Covilhã, on loan from Rubin Kazan. But the player to look out for, is undoubtedly Reza Ghoochannejhad. A striker for Charlton Athletic, Ghoochannejhad has scored nine goals for Iran, in only 13 matches! Despite not having the best of seasons with Charlton, scoring one solitary goal in 15 games, Ghoochannejhad is clearly capable of playing to a high standard; he has played for Belgian giants Standard, Heerenveen and Go Ahead Eagles, both from the Netherlands. He only managed around a year at Standard, but still scored 4 goals in ten games and represented them in the Europa League.

Iran may have to wait a couple of decades for any World Cup achievements; even though football is the most popular sport in Iran, the standard is fairly low, as is the case in most Asian countries. So it seems that Iran will have to settle for the title of Asia’s best national football team: they are unlikely ever to get any better.

Tomos Knox

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