16-June Nigeria (8pm GMT Curitiba)
21-June Argentina (5pm GMT Belo Horizonte)
25-June Bosnia-Herzegovina (5pm GMT Salvador)
Iran qualified by coming top of a strong group that included South Korea. Dave Taylor believes they could just surprise one or two teams this summer.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Portugal’s volatile Carlos Queiroz was Manchester United’s assistant boss for five years, helping them win three League titles and the European Cup. Leaving United in 2008, he became Portugal’s Coach leading them to the last 16 of the 2010 World Cup, only to lose to winners Spain. In April 2011 he agreed to take charge of Iran and they qualified by topping their group. “The qualification campaign was a journey through hell,” he revealed. “But now begins the journey through heaven.”
Why they could be dangerous
Queiroz has brought a change in Iranian football and made them very hard to beat. With none of their players in Europe’s top teams, they also have the advantage of few knowing their style. They should not be underestimated – despite their lack of pedigree and history.
The world on his shoulders: Javad Nekounam
Iran’s midfielder and captain, ‘Neku’ played for Osasuna in La Liga for six years and at 33 he is Team Melli’s most experienced player. After playing in over 130 games and featuring in the 2006 World Cup, he will need all his experience and more if he is to lead his country beyond the group stages for the first time in their history.
Did you know?
Before Queiroz became Coach of Iran they had just one foreign-based player in their squad. Today they have seven, including star striker Reza Ghoochannejhad of Charlton. Iran are Asia’s best FIFA ranked team at 42. Queiroz has lost just four times in 32 games.
Country legend: Ali Daei
Ali’s nickname is Shahriar meaning King and he is certainly royalty in Iran. Undoubtedly Iran’s most famous footballer, he played a record 149 times for his country. Starting his career in 1988 with his local club Esteghial Ardabil, he moved to Bayern Munich in 1998, where President Franz Beckenbauer called him a world-class centre-forward. Certainly over his 13-year career, and judging by his all-time record 109 goals for the national team, he was proven right.
They do have a tendency to rely on set pieces for goals and with 40 per cent of their goals coming from dead balls it makes them very dangerous in these situations. They prefer to attack from the flanks which could mean teams like Argentina, who are strong through the middle, could find it uncomfortable. At times they can revert to a 4-5-1 when defending, but for the majority of the qualifiers they stuck with Ghoochannejhad as the lone striker in front of three midfielders.
…Nigeria P1 W0 D0 L1 F0 A1
…Argentina P0 W0 D0 L0 F0 A0
…Bosnia-Herzegovina P5 W4 D1 L0 F16 A7
Population: 77.1 million
World Cup appearances: 3
Best finish: First round 1978, 1988, 2006
Famous for: Beating the USA 2-1 in June 1998
Top Division: Iran Pro League
How they got to the World Cup: Finished top of AFC Group A Asian Qualifiers over South Korea, Qatar, Uzbekistan and Lebanon
FIFA World Ranking: 37
Last World Cup Appearance: Germany 2006, finished bottom of group D
Continental Honours: Asian Cup champions 1968, 1972, 1976.
Most Capped Player: Ali Daei (149 caps)
Leading International Scorer: Ali Daei (109 goals)
Nickname: Team Melli