An early wake-up call was all it took for Iran to figure out its way through the rest of the field.
Now, the Hamed Haddadi-led Iranian side looks to solidify their claim for a spot at the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup in China.
After a shocking loss in their first game of the World Cup qualifiers, the three-time Asian champions plowed through competition with five straight victories. With a winning margin of 22.2 points, Iran captured the top spot in Group D with a 5-1 win-loss slate.
On September 13 at the Azady Gym in Tehran, the Mehran Shahintab-mentored Iranians aim to stretch their winning streak to six as they battle the Philippines (4-2) at the start of the fourth window of qualifications. Iran will host a rejigged Philippine squad, set to be coached by Yeng Guiao who replaced former national team tactician Chot Reyes.
FOX Sports Philippines looks back at the World Cup qualification campaign of Iran in the eve of their match against the Philippines:
24 November 2017 – Iraq 74, Iran 66
No typographical error here, as it was Iraq who triumphed over Iran at the start of the Asian qualifiers. Ranked 80th in the world, Iraq banked on the heroics of naturalized forward Demario Mayfield in their upset of the number 25-ranked Iran. The 6-foot-5 Mayfield scored game-high 24 points and grabbed ten rebounds, as the Iraqis dealt the undermanned Iranian side with an opening day loss. Against Iraq, Iran only fielded a nine-man roster which missed the services of national team mainstays Haddadi and Samad Nikkhahbahrami.
27 November 2017 – Iran 65, Qatar 39
Reeling from an shocking loss to Iraq, Iran rebounded with a bang three days later against Qatar. An Abdulrahman Mohamed Saad free throw gave the Qataris their last taste of the lead, 8-7, at the 4:52 mark of the first quarter. From that point, it was all Iran as the West Asian powerhouse dominated the rest of the way, building a lead that went as high as 29 points. Three Iranian players scored in double figures, led by Meisam Mirzaeitalarposhti who finished with 14 points. With their advantage in size and athleticism, Iran outrebounded Qatar 51-32. Iran also lorded it over in the assists department, tallying 16 dimes compared to Qatar’ three.
22 February 2018 – Iran 75, Kazakhstan 54
A full-strength Iranian team flew to Astana to deal hosts Kazakhstan a 21-point beatdown. With Haddadi back in their lineup, Iran was dominant over the Kazakhs in inside scoring, 46-16. The Iranians also took advantage of the error-prone Kazakhstan side, converting their opponent’s 21 turnovers to 22 turnover points. Nikkhahbahrami topscored for Iran with 21 points, along with eight assists. Haddadi finished with a 20-point, 20-point double-double performance in his return to Iranian national team duties.
25 February 2018 – Iran 83, Iraq 53
Revenge for Iran came in the form of a 30-point demolition of Iraq in the second leg of their Group D qualifying matchup. Behind by one at the start of the second period, hosts Iran steadily imposed their will over the Iraqis for the rest of the game. Contributing heavily in their win was Iran’s bench mob, who outscored their Iraqi counterparts 30-9. Nikkhahbahrami was again at the forefront for Iran, tallying game-high 16 points and seven assists. As a team, Iran had more assists than the Iraqis, 24-10. Haddadi missed out on a double-double after finishing with 15 markers and nine boards.
29 June 2018 – Iran 77, Qatar 75
Iran climbed out from an early 14-point deficit to escape Doha with a pulsating win over the host nation. Off a missed jumper by Behnam Yakhchalidehkordi, Arsalan Kazemi scored the go-ahead putback dunk with two seconds remaining. Despite the 21-point performance of naturalized guard Trey Johnson, Iran snatched the two-point victory in a game that could have gone to overtime. Haddadi turned in once again a double-double performance with 23 points and 14 rebounds. Game-hero Kazemi also finished with a double-double, tallying 12 markers and 14 boards.
2 July 2018 – Iran 88, Kazakhstan 56
The Iranians swept their Group D head-to-head against the Kazakhs with an emphatic 32-point thrashing at their home floor in Tehran. Ahead the entire match, Iran even erected a 36-point advantage in the fourth period. The Iranian side went for higher percentage baskets, outscoring the Kazakhs inside the paint 42-24. Yakhchalidehkordi led all scorers with 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds. With this huge win over Kazakhstan, Iran formalized their entry to the second round of qualifications.