Iran

ایران / Irān / Iran

  • Capital: Tehran / تهران
  • Official Languages: Farsi / Persian
  • Nicknames: تیم ملی (Team Melli); ستارگان پارسی (Persian Stars)
  • Association: Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI) / فدراسیون فوتبال جمهوری اسلامی ایران
  • FIFA Code: IRN

Records

  • Best World Cup Result (Men): Group Stage (Various)
  • Best World Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Best Asian Cup Result (Men): WINNERS (1968, 1972, 1976)
  • Best Asian Cup Result (Women): Not Qualified
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Men): 15th (August 2005)
  • Highest FIFA Ranking (Women): 48th (September 2008)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Men): 122nd (May 1996)
  • Lowest FIFA Ranking (Women): 144th (December 2007)
  • Most Capped Players: Javad Nekounam – 151 caps
  • Top Scorer: Ali Daei – 109 goals

The Islamic Republic of Iran, or more commonly known as Iran, is situated in the centre of the Asian confederation, between the ‘Middle East‘ region and the Indian sub-continent. Iran is one of the strongest and most passionately supported football nations within the AFC, with its club teams being some of the more successful in Asian club competitions. Joining FIFA in 1948, Iran won its first major piece of silverware twenty years later when they won their first Asian Cup as hosts. They would win the next two Asian Cups (including another home win in 1976) to win three consectutive Asian Cups. However since 1976, they have yet to add to their tally of three cups, reaching the semi-finals on five seperate occassions, most recently in the 2019 Asian Cup. The Iranians were originally part of the West Asian Football Federation (WAFF) but moved to the Central Asian Football Association (CAFA) in 2015.

Iran appeared in their first World Cup in 1978 (where they famously held an expectant Scotland side to a 1-1 draw) but finished bottom of their group. They wouldn’t make their second appearance in football’s greatest tournament until twenty years later in the 1998 World Cup, when they famously beat the Americans (admist tense political tension between the two countries) in the group stage. Since France ’98, the Iranians have been constant qualifiers from the Asian confederation, qualifying for four of the last six World Cups although they have yet to progress to the knockout stage of the tournament. They came very close in the 2018 World Cup, missing out on progression by just a single point behind the Iberian giants of Spain and Portugal. For the upcoming 2022 World Cup qualifying, they were the highest-ranked side in the AFC qualification rounds although they have some work to do if they’re to progress to the next stage of World Cup qualifying. They are currently underperforming in their group, situated five points behind group leaders and neighbours, Iraq.

Talking about one of the footballing powerhouses in Asian football in both club and international football, and arguably the best international team in the western half of the massive AFC confederation, we interviewed the brilliant Arya Allahverdi from the Gol Bezan Podcast. Gol Bezan is Iranian football’s first dedicated podcast, who cover everything surrounding the Iran national team, the Persian Gulf Pro League & Legionnaires as well as exclusively interviewing players, coaches & other notable figures within Iranian or Asian football. To find both Arya’s and Gol Bezan‘s social media accounts, website, and podcast, follow the links below:

Q. Who would you say is your country’s best player and coach/manager of all-time, and the reasonings behind the choices?

Ali Karimi

Best player = Ali Karimi
On technical ability he was miles ahead of everyone in Iran and arguably still is in comparison with today’s generation. He earned 127 caps and scored 38 goals for the national team, and spent two seasons with Bayern Munich winning both the 2005-06 Bundesliga and DFB-Pokal.

Carlos Queiroz

Best manager = Carlos Queiroz
The longest reigning Iran head coach. He revolutionised Iran’s style of play, bringing high intensity and a tactically strong team to two consecutive World Cup qualifications in both 2014 and 2018. The performances against Argentina, Spain and Portugal showcased how difficult it was to beat Iran. Queiroz has also been a key figure in more Iranian players moving to top-tier European leagues. Players such as Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun, Milad Mohammadi, Saeid Ezatolahi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Ashkan Dejagah, Reza Ghoochannejhad and Alireza Beiranvand all thrived under his reign.

Q. Who could be regarded as a ‘cult hero’ in terms of the national team both in the past and present?

Reza Ghoochannejhad

Past: Khodadad Azizi
[A striker who played for Iran between 1992-2004 with the record of 47 caps and 11 goals, and was named as Asian Player of the Year in 1996]

Present: Reza Ghoochannejhad
[A 33 year-old striker who is currently at Dutch side PEC Zwolle and has scored 17 goals in 44 appearances for the national side between 2012 and 2018]

Q. Of the current team, who would you say is the best player from Iran currently?

Sardar Azmoun

Sardar Azmoun
[26 year-old forward, currently playing at Russian side Zenit St. Petersburg. As of February 2021, he has scored 33 goals in 51 appearances for the Iranian national team]

Q. How would you describe the current state/performance of the national team?

Currently we are in a position where we have great depth in all areas of the pitch, and are led by Croatian Dragan Skočić and his assistants Vahid Hashemian, Anton Usnik, and Mladen Žganjer, who have been working very hard to take us through to the next round of World Cup qualifying. We lost our last two qualifying games against Iraq and Bahrain which I’m sure the players and staff want to avenge.

Q. Are there any Iranian players who you think we should be focusing on for the future – who would you say is the most exciting up & coming talent from the country?

Allahyar Sayyadmanesh

In the Persian Gulf Pro League, forward Mehdi Ghayedi (22) of Esteghlal is the one to watch, his potential ceiling is extremely high.

Outside of Iran, Allahyar Sayyadmanesh (19) playing for Zorya Luhansk in Ukraine (but on-loan from Fenerbahçe) is a top talent. Scored against Leicester City recently in the UEFA Europa League and was one of the best players at the 2017 U17 World Cup.

Q. Looking at Iran’s international history, what would you say has been the best game, result or performance for the national team in your opinion?

The best game and result has to be Iran 2 – 1 USA at the 1998 World Cup. Iran’s first World Cup win, a huge win for the country and massive spectacle worldwide.

The best performance personally would be against Argentina at the 2014 World Cup. Keeping out Messi, Agüero, Higuain & Di María for 90 minutes only to concede to Lionel Messi in the 91st minute. However, the defensive brilliance of the entire Carlos Queiroz team was astonishing.

Q. Likewise, is there a performance or result which is regarded as the team’s lowest point?

It has to be Bahrain 3-1 Iran in the 2002 World Cup qualification.

Q. What are the best and worst things about being a fan of the Iranian national team?

The best part of supporting ‘Team Melli‘ is seeing the sheer number of fans enjoying the national team play in a full Azadi Stadium, the joy of them scoring and winning matches.

The worst part is naturally when they lose against rival teams such as Iraq, Japan who we believe we can beat with our strongest team.

Q. Have the fans adopted some kind of unofficial anthem to sing along to before/during/after matches?

Iran chikaresh mikone? Soorakh soorakhesh mikone!‘ – Translation: “What’s Iran gonna do to them? They’ll put holes in them!” (Holes in the net, not the players’)

(Horn) Doo doo doo ‘IRAN!‘, doo doo doo doo doo doo ‘IRAN!‘ – repeat

Q. Do you have a favourite or iconic shirt from the whole time of the national team?

The 2006 World Cup, Puma-made shirt was very modern looking and made us look the part. Many other nations went with that brand and style of kit at the competition.

Q. Finally, what are your hopes for the future of the Iranian national team?

To qualify for the 2022 World Cup, and make it out the group stages for the first time. As well as winning the Asian Cup for the first time since 1976.

A massive بسیار از شما متشکرم to Arya from the Gol Bezan Podcast for answering our questions on the Team Melli. Remember you can find his excellent accounts, and Gol Bezan‘s, in the links at the top of the blogpage.

If you have any comments, suggestions, reactions, or even your own answers to the above questions, please write them in the comments box below. Likewise, you can either email us at the94thmin@gmail.com or send a message at @The94thMin on Twitter.

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