Managed by ex-Real Madrid and Man Utd coach Carlos Queiroz, Iran are not as bad as people would think. They are a very defensive team, with a low scoring rate, but at the same time they don’t concede many. 2 goals were conceded in the final 8 games of qualifying. Here is their squad:
Goalkeepers: Daniel Davari, Alireza Haghighi, Rahman Ahmadi
Defenders: Hossein Mahini, Steven Beitashour, Pejman Montazeri, Jalal Hosseini, Amir-Hossein Sadeghi, Ahmad Alenemeh, Hashem Beikzadeh, Mehrdad Pouladi
Midfielders: Javad Nekounam, Andranik Teymourian, Reza Haghighi, Ghasem Haddadifar, Bakhtiar Rahmani, Ehsan Hajsafi
Forwards: Ashkan Dejagah, Masoud Shojaei, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Karim Ansarifard, Khosro Heydari
Ones to Watch:
Ashkan Dejagah – possibly their best known player, currently at Fulham – he is key to their chances of even getting a point. A direct, pacey winger, he is one you should look out for.
Masoud Shajaei – on the other wing is this young man – in qualifying he was key and played an important role. Similarly very pacey, and direct – he is an outlet for the defence as they are very flat and very defensive.
Javad Nekounam – he is the linchpin in the midfield, one who can play an astonishing ball. Often the rest of the team look to him when they need a goal, as he has that creative spark needed. Their kick and rush tactics don’t help, but that is the doing of Queiroz, and what he has to work with.
(4-2-3-1): Davari, Heidari, Montazeri, Hosseini, Beikzadeh, Teymourian, Nekounam, Dejagah, Shajaei, Jahanbakhsh, Ghoochennejhad.
A very unknown lineup to some – but those with the knowledge – the Centre forward Ghoochannejhad plays for Charlton, Dejagah for Fulham and Andranik Teymourian played for Bolton for a year or two. It will be an ultra-defensive showing from the side, with full backs rarely venturing beyong their own half. They strength is defending, suffocating and forcing opposition to hit long hopeful balls over the top by giving them no option to pass to. Man marking to the max here!
Winner – 2500/1
Group Winner – 50/1
To Qualify – 6/1
Under 1.5 Points – 8/11
Total Points – 0 – 5/2
With Argentina, Bosnia and Nigeria in their group, you will be hard-pressed to find someone who would back Iran to score a goal, yet alone get a point. Their only hope is against Nigeria, who have plenty of off days. For this reason, and the fact they score so little anyway against weak opposition – we really fancy Under 1.5 Points at 8/11, as well as Total Group Points – 0, at 5/2 – those are our two Top Tips for Iran.