World Cup 2014 Analysis - Group F: Does Iran Have Chance to Get to Knockout Round?
When one thinks of Asian superpowers in soccer, Japan and South Korea immediately come to mind. Iran is not usually included in that group. However, Carlos Queiroz's side has proven to be one to contend with and could surprise a few people in Brazil. The team has been placed in arguably the least competitive group of all and could finally earn its way to the knockout round. Can Iran pull off the historic feat?
Iran has a brief history in the World Cup. The team has played in just three tournaments in its existence and has never managed to get out of the first round of the tournament. Iran's best finish in the World Cup came in 1998 when the team managed to earn three points; Iran defeated the United States 1-0 in arguably one of the most important moments in team history. In 2006, Iran was placed into a group with Angola, Mexico and Portugal. The team lost every single game except its 1-1 draw with Angola.
How did they get here?
Led by the brilliant Portuguese manager Queiroz, Iran had a terrific qualifying campaign with five wins, one draw and two losses in Group A of the AFC qualifiers. The team only allowed two goals in the entire tournament; both of those tallies came in losses. The team endured a 0-0 and put up clean sheets in each of its victories. The defense looked resilient throughout the tournament while the offense pitched in at opportune moments. The team wound up finishing in first place in the group with 16 points; the top two sides in each AFC group automatically qualified for the tournament. Reza Ghoochannejhad and Javad Nekounam led the team with three goals each.
The majority of Iran's players play in the nation's domestic league, but a few have managed to make names internationally. Midfielder Ashkan Dejagah gas scored five goals for a weak Fulham side in 2013-14 and has four goals in 11 games for Iran.
Forward Ghoochannejhad has an astounding nine goals in just 11 appearances for his country; he plays in England for Charlton Athletic.
Captain Nekounam is the most capped player on the team with 136 appearances and 38 goals; however at age 33 his time on the pitch might be limited in this tournament. Defender Jalal Hosseini has appeared in 83 games for his nation and will be essential on the backend.
Goaltending is a weak point for the side as none of the current crop of keepers has more than nine appearances for Iran.
Can they get out of their group?
Iran has never faced Argentina in its history but has a record of four wins, three draws and four losses against South American competition throughout its history. The team has only played Nigeria once in its history and lost; however that game took place back in 1998. The only team that Iran has a strong record against is Bosnia and Herzegovina; the two sides have faced off five times in their respective histories, and Iran has come away with four wins and a draw. The last match between these two teams came back in 2009 in an international friendly; Iran won 3-2.
While the record against Bosnia and Herzegovina may bode well for this side, Iran has never won a game in the World Cup against European competition; the team has a record of zero wins, one draw and four losses against European sides in the tournament. As noted earlier, the team only has one win in the tournament, and it came against the United States in 1998. Argentina is the undisputed favorite in this group and should have a field day with Iran's weak defense. Meanwhile Nigeria's speed should also overwhelm this side.
Can they win it all?
Iran is likely going to finish somewhere between 25th and 32nd depending on how many goals they can score and whether they can acquire any points. This is not a team that anyone should expect to make any sort of run in this tournament. A third place finish in Group F would be considered a victory for this side; a victory in the three games would likely be considered a major feat.
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