Iran's World Cup Predictions
After four years of waiting, the time has come. Another World Cup is here and our bloggers across all 32 competing countries have predicted the fate that awaits their team. The country's "outlook" gives a general view of their situation ahead of the tournament, while "pitfalls" takes a look at any potential problems. Elsewhere, each country will predict their top scorer and breakout star while also suggesting how far they can go.
Lack of support from the Iranian league's top clubs, scheduling conflicts with the AFC Champions League calendar, and tensions between Carlos Queiroz and the Iranian football federation have led the coach to publicly voice his displeasure on a number of occasions.
The problem became most obvious during the team's training camp in South Africa in April. Queiroz had hoped to take most, if not all, the home-based players to warm-weather training in South Africa but, after a club-versus-country row erupted between Iranian top clubs and the federation, only 11 players showed up. Not the best preparation and, despite a more successful three-week-long training camp in Austria, the indications are that the team's physical conditioning may be slightly behind where the coaching staff had hoped it to be at this juncture.
All 32 team previews and predictions
Brazil | Cameroon | Croatia | Mexico
Australia | Netherlands | Chile | Spain
Colombia | Greece | Ivory Coast | Japan
Costa Rica | England | Italy | Uruguay
Ecuador | France | Honduras | Switzerland
Argentina | Bosnia | Iran | Nigeria
Germany | Ghana | Portugal | USA
Algeria | Belgium | Russia | South Korea
Although Queiroz is expected to start three to five of the foreign-based players, the backbone of the defence is home-based. Lack of exposure to top-level football, climate conditions in Brazil and the conditioning issues mentioned above could be a factor against more physical teams.
The other less obvious factor is the quality of the training matches. While Iran's opponents, including the Super Eagles, have been able to test their readiness against more worthy opponents, Team Melli have played Belarus, Montenegro, Angola and Trinidad and Tobago.
Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejad has been the top producer up front under Queiroz. However, he is the type of striker who needs to have the ball served to him in the box and under certain conditions. He will be hard pressed against experienced defenders in Brazil especially if quality service is not there. Should Ghoochannejad fail to produce, Queiroz would have to pin his hopes on midfielders Ashkan Dejagah, Javad Nekounam, Masoud Shojaei and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Considering the fact that both Dejagah and Nekounam will have significant defensive responsibilities assigned to them, and Shojaei's lack of pace, a lot rests on their shoulders.
Team Melli fans could find Jahanbakhsh comes good; the only problem is that he has not featured as a regular starter under Queiroz. The midfielder started his senior career in Gilan province in the north of Iran playing for S.C. Damash. Two years, 64 matches and 10 goals later the 20-year-old transferred to NEC of the Dutch Eredivisie for the 2013-14 season and scored five goals in 29 matches to be voted the league's player of the season. Jahanbakhsh was called to the national team for the first time and has managed a single goal in six matches. Expect him to get some playing time against Nigeria as a substitute or even a starter, and quickly establish his place in the starting XI for the rest of the tournament.
PREDICTION: Group stage exit
Team Melli has arguably landed one of the toughest groups in this year's World Cup. Even the most optimistic fans have doubts about the team's chances of making it to the next round. A third-place finish in the group would be considered a success, especially if the team manages to earn points against either Nigeria, in the first match, or Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the final match, of their group stage. Although these two teams are most likely to be competing for the second spot in the group, the order in which Team Melli faces them is somewhat favorable. A surprise performance against the Super Eagles and a spirited showing in a potentially meaningless match against Bosnia could provide Iran with all the opportunities they need to gain the pride of avoiding bottom spot.