Iran will be the big outsiders just to get out of their group and the nation will go to Russia to learn rather than to dream of winning games. They will at least be led by a coach who has years of experience in Carlos Queiroz.
The Portuguese has had such illustrious jobs as coach of Real Madrid and Portugal and was Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United for a number of years. But he will understand his team’s limitations for this tournament.
It will all be about the quality of striker Sardar Azmoun who had a great qualifying campaign and remains in good form.
Another player that could make an impact is Saeid Ezatolahi who has been creative in midfield for the national team and stands at 6ft 3’’ and has the ability therefore to be very dangerous in set piece situations.
Iran finally qualified for their first World Cup in 1978 when the tournament was held in Argentina and they subsequently went out at the group stages.
The war with Iraq in the 1980’s prevented the nation from playing football and it wouldn’t be until 1998 when they would qualify again after they beat Australia in the play-offs. In this World Cup Iran again went out at the group stages but they did record their first victory in the tournament when they beat USA. They qualified for both the 2006 and 2014 World Cup’s with their hopes ending each time at the group stage.
Iran have a very tough group where they will have to play both Spain and Portugal. The good news for them is that their opening match is against Morocco and if they can get something from that game it will give them confidence. Iran have made very good progress in the last 12 months highlighted by drawing 1-1 with Russia in a friendly and they have every chance of finishing 3rd in a difficult group.