Featured Matches
Previous
Real Salt Lake
Montreal Impact
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
AC Milan
Olympiakos
0
3
LIVE 79'
Game Details
Vélez Sarsfield
Estudiantes de Caseros
0
2
FT
Game Details
FC Groningen
Aberdeen
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
Sligo
Rosenborg
1
3
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 4
Game Details
Stjarnan
Motherwell
3
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 5 - 4
Game Details
Shakhter Karagandy
FK Atlantas
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 0
Game Details
Shakhter Karagandy
FK Atlantas
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 0
Game Details
Hapoel Be'er Sheva
RNK Split
0
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
MyPa
Dinamo Minsk
0
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 3
Game Details
Omonia Nicosia
FK Buducnost Podgorica
0
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 0
Game Details
Haugesund
FK Sarajevo
1
3
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 3
Game Details
Kuban Krasnodar
Sillamae Kalev
5
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 9 - 0
Game Details
Inter Baku
Elfsborg
(3) 0
(4) 1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
IFK Goteborg
Györi ETO FC
0
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 1
Game Details
Lech Poznan
Kalju
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 1
Game Details
Liberec
MFK Kosice
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 4 - 0
Game Details
Tromso
Víkingur Gøta
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
KS Flamurtari Vlorë
Petrolul Ploiesti
1
3
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 5
Game Details
SV Grödig Amateure
Cukaricki Belgrade
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 5 - 2
Game Details
Chikhura Sachkhere
Bursaspor
(4) 0
(1) 0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 0
Game Details
AIK Solna
Linfield
2
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
Zimbru Chisinau
CSKA Sofia
0
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 1
Game Details
Shakhter Soligorsk
Derry City
5
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 6 - 1
Game Details
FC Vaduz
Ruch Chorzow
0
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 3
Game Details
Esbjerg FB
Kairat Almaty
1
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 1
Game Details
FC Spartak Trnava
FC Zestafoni
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 0
Game Details
FC Groningen
Aberdeen
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 2
Game Details
FC Zorya Luhansk
Laci
2
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 5 - 1
Game Details
Hapoel Tel Aviv
Astana 1964
1
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 3
Game Details
Sligo
Rosenborg
1
3
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 4
Game Details
Zawisa Bydgoszcz
S.V. Zulte Waregem
1
3
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 5
Game Details
Vojvodina
AS Trencin
3
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 4
Game Details
Asteras Tripolis
RoPS
4
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 5 - 3
Game Details
Hajduk Split
Dundalk
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
ND Gorica
Molde
1
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 5
Game Details
Jagodina
CFR Cluj-Napoca
0
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 0 - 1
Game Details
NK Koper
Neftchi Baku PFC
0
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 3
Game Details
Ferencvaros
Rijeka
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 3
Game Details
Siroki Brijeg
Mlada Boleslav
0
4
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 6
Game Details
Diosgyor VTK
PFC Litex Lovech
1
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
Crusaders
Brommapojkarna
1
1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 1 - 5
Game Details
St Johnstone
FC Luzern
(5) 1
(4) 1
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 2 - 2
Game Details
St. Pölten
Botev Plovdiv
2
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 2
Game Details
FH Hafnarfjordur
Neman Grodno
2
0
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 3 - 1
Game Details
Stjarnan
Motherwell
3
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 5 - 4
Game Details
Real Salt Lake
Montreal Impact
2:00 AM GMT
Game Details
Vélez Sarsfield
Estudiantes de Caseros
0
2
FT
Game Details
Sport
Paysandu SC
3
2
FT
Leg 2. Aggregate: 4 - 4
Game Details
AC Milan
Olympiakos
0
3
LIVE 79'
Game Details
Next
May 15, 2014

32 Teams in 32 Days: Iran


Group F | Argentina | Bosnia-Herzegovina | Nigeria


Team DNA

The following statistic tells you all you need to know: Only eight goals were scored by Iran in the eight games of the final round of qualification (four of which came in one match against Lebanon), but manager Carlos Queiroz's side still finished with a goal difference of plus-6.

It will come as no surprise to fans familiar with Queiroz that Iran's focus at the World Cup in Brazil will be on being hard to beat. Iran are well-organised, defend in numbers and look to hit the opposition on the counterattack using the pace of Reza Ghoochannejhad to get the goals. This worked against AFC opponents, but the challenge is to take that to the world level, as preparations since qualification have not been smooth.

Iran's perceived weakness could turn out to be their strength. The other teams in Group F will see Team Melli as a relatively easy opponent and an absolutely necessary three points. Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria will also likely be more aggressive in the search for goals, which should provide space for speedy and skillful attackers. These plans will play into the hands of a wily coach who has more international experience than most.

Starting scenario

History

Iran have participated in three previous World Cups, (1978, 1998, 2006) and have never reached the knockout stage. The previous three appearances have yielded just one victory -- against the United States in 1998.

How they reached Brazil

Qualification was no place for the faint-hearted and was something of a roller coaster for fans -- Queiroz called it "a journey through hell." The first group stage was navigated fairly easily, but the final round was tense until the final second of the last match. Iran's first loss against Lebanon had Queiroz on the back foot. A subsequent home loss against Uzbekistan had Iran out of the automatic spots with three games remaining, and scoring just two goals in the first five matches summed up the issue.

Then, it all went right. In came goalkeeper Rahman Ahmadi, who didn't pick the ball out of the net once in the final three matches. In the first of those games, Ghoochannejhad scored the lone goal to give Iran a 1-0 victory against Qatar. Iran then avenged their previous loss to Lebanon with a 4-0 decision before a dramatic 1-0 win against South Korea (thanks to another Ghoochannejhad goal) sealed their trip to Brazil.

The numbers never lie

Calculating a nation's passion for the game based on how well it pays its manager, attends its games and gets out to play:

Key battles

Iran's opening game against Nigeria is crucial, while beating Messi & Co. in the second match would obviously be a huge deal in terms of excitement at home and coverage worldwide. But, in purely practical terms, it is all about Bosnia-Herzegovina, a match that is seen as a must-win by all. Without three points in that game, dreams of the second round are likely to remain just that.

In the Tehran media, articles on how to stop Edin Dzeko are just as common as the breathless reports of his goal-scoring exploits for Manchester City in the Premier League.

The fact that Bosnia are the opposition in the final group game is probably a plus -- just a point from the opening two matches will likely give Iran a chance. There is always the possibility that Bosnia will have nothing to play for if they lose their first two games.

Reza Ghoochannejhad has scored nine times in his 11 career international matches for Iran.
Reza Ghoochannejhad has scored nine times in his 11 career international matches for Iran.

Most important player

Many hopes rest of the shoulders of Ghoochannejhad. The attacker, who moved with his family from Iran to the Netherlands when he was a boy, left Belgium's Standard Liege in January for Charlton Athletic just to get some game time. The experience will have done him good, as well as increase his match sharpness. Visa issues delayed his international debut, but he was worth the wait, finding the net nine times in his first 11 games (including those two goals that clinched World Cup qualification). His stats are even more impressive considering that Iran are not the most attacking team in the world.

Fulham's Ashkan Dejagah contributes guile from the right side after being one of the better players for the London team in a relegation season and brings a lot of European experience. In the middle, Javad Nekounam is not quite the all-action, fearsome warrior of old, but the 33 year-old is a settling presence in midfield.

Definition of success

Obviously, Iran want to avoid losing all three group games, but true success comes only with a place in the Round of 16. If they do that, nothing else matters; the celebrations in Tehran will be intense, and there will be a place in the history books for Queiroz and his players.

Video: Iran odds in World Cup (Australia only)

Failing progression, a good result against Argentina would be a considerable consolation. Iran have faced some big teams at the World Cup -- Netherlands, Yugoslavia, Germany, Mexico and Portugal -- and have lost to all of them. Collecting a giant victory would go over very well.

How far will Iran go?

Better than many think, but just falling short of the second round.

ESPN FC Analysts' take: Shaka Hislop

The team's entire outlook changed during qualifying. They started poorly but turned things around by sharpening the defence, winning 1-0 games and, really, becoming quite boring. But, in the end, they topped the group.

We can expect to see a similar look in June: They'll try to be solid in back and hope to get a goal or two. Captain/midfielder Javad Nekounam has been with the team forever (135 caps); he's good from set pieces, reads the game well and is a real inspiration in the dressing room.

Comments

Use a Facebook account to add a comment, subject to Facebook's Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your Facebook name, photo & other personal information you make public on Facebook will appear with your comment, and may be used on ESPN's media platforms. Learn more.