Iran will be out to defy the massive odds stacked against them when they come up against Portugal, Spain and Morocco in Group B at the World Cup in Russia.
Carlos Queiroz’s side have a mighty challenge to advance to the knockout stages due to the presence of both Cristiano Ronaldo’s A Selecao das Quinas as well as a very talented La Furia Roja outfit, although Team Melli can at least draw confidence from a superb unbeaten qualifying campaign.
In the Asian Football Confederation, they went undefeated under the renowned former Manchester United assistant manager and recorded 12 consecutive clean sheets as well.
The Iranians have no pedigree in the global showpiece with just a single win coming in 1998 against the USA.
With that said, they boast better firepower than they did in 2014 in Brazil where they finished last in their group behind Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Four years later Iran are bolstered with the Eredivisie’s top scorer in Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who operates as an attacking midfielder for AZ Alkmaar. In addition, they have forward Karim Ansarifard who hit 17 league goals for Olympiacos in the Greek top-flight.
Explosive striker Mehdi Taremi is another one to look out for as he has been prolific for Al-Gharafa in Qatar since signing for the club in January. With 11 goals in his 25 appearances for Iran, he is a fan favourite back home.
However, to expect the nation from the Middle East to advance out of the group stages is a big ask amongst such distinguished company as the Portuguese and the Spanish.
Nonetheless, a spirited showing against the two giants and just a second World Cup win in their history against Morocco, would no doubt be seen as something to be proud of by Iranian supporters.
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Seyed Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo, Portugal);
Defenders: Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende, Belgium), Voria Ghafouri (Esteghlal), Steven Beitashour (Los Angeles FC, USA), Seyed Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad, Qatar), Mohammad Ansari (Persepolis), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Seyed Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Omid Norafkan (Esteghlal), Saeid AGhaei (Sepahan), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal);
Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm, Russia), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens, Greece), Ahmad Abdolahzadeh (Foolad), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds, Sweden), Mahdi Torabi (Saipa), Ashkan Dejagah (Notthingham Forest, England), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Hajsafi (Olympiacos, Greece), Ali Karimi (Sepahan), Soroush Rafiei (Al Khor, Qatar), Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis);
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos, Greece), Mahdi Taremi (Al Gharafa, Qatar), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Kaveh Rezaei (Charleroi, Belgium).