Teamwork makes the dream work

Can Iran’s golden era upset England, USMNT to assert historic FIFA World Cup knockout berth?

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With regards to custom and previous accomplishments, few Asian groups can boast a richer historical past than Iran.

Winners of three consecutive AFC Asian Cups from 1968-76, the Iranians have produced iconic continental names recognisable even in European soccer like Ali Daei and Ali Karimi — who can each lay declare to having performed for Bayern Munich — and Mehdi Mahdavikia, who holds legend standing at fellow German outfit Hamburg.

Having made their FIFA World Cup debut as early as 1978 — the fifth to ever symbolize the continent — Staff Melli are continually amongst Asia’s finest, having certified for the final three editions of soccer’s greatest event.

But, for all of the earlier high quality they’ve been graced with up to now, Iran have by no means made it out of the group stage at a World Cup.

– 2022 World Cup: All squad lists for Qatar
– World Cup group previews: Group B – United States, England, Iran, Wales

And for all of the earlier high quality they’ve been graced with up to now, there may be proof to recommend that but they’ve by no means boasted as gifted a group because the one headed for Qatar 2022.

So the query now’s: can Iran’s golden era make historical past this 12 months? Particularly in what’s undeniably a testing Group B, which additionally consists of England, United States and Wales?

The straightforward reply is ‘sure’.

Even considering again to 4 years in the past, in what was arguably a fair harder group that had Spain and Portugal, Staff Melli had already come agonisingly near reaching that historic knockout-round berth.

After a gap 2-1 win over Morocco adopted a slim however creditable loss to Spain, the Iranians had been barely given an opportunity of their ultimate outing in opposition to Portugal but managed to carry the European giants to a 1-1 draw.

It may simply have been a victory if not for an important last-gasp miss by Mehdi Taremi. Finally, Iran would miss out in excruciating trend as they completed a solitary level behind each Spain and Portugal.

4 years on, they’ve solely turn into stronger.

13 of their 25-man squad named on Monday ply their commerce in Europe.

Taremi, who was understandably distraught after that miss in opposition to Portugal, is now thriving in Europe with Porto and has 5 Champions League targets to his identify from this season’s group stage alone.

His strike accomplice Sardar Azmoun, whereas hampered by damage since shifting to Bayer Leverkusen, gained 4 consecutive Russian Premier League titles with Zenit St. Petersburg previous to his transfer to the Bundesliga and was even the competitors’s Participant of the Season in 2020-21.

Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Saman Ghoddos now boast Premier League expertise to their names, Majid Hosseini and Ali Gholizadeh have each adopted a lot of their compatriots in making the grade overseas, whereas much more skilled stalwarts corresponding to Karim Ansarifard and Saeid Ezatolahi are nonetheless thriving in Europe even when they will not be gracing probably the most high-profile competitions.

Maybe most crucially, Iran will even be guided by one of many wiliest and savviest tacticians within the enterprise in Carlos Queiroz, who left Staff Melli after the 2019 Asian Cup however was introduced again solely again in September to interchange Dragan Skocic.

Will probably be simple for the unfamiliar to write down off Staff Melli at first look. There’ll at all times be extra hype surrounding the opposite Group B contenders — England, United States, even Wales for the Gareth Bale issue.

That nevertheless is one thing that won’t hassle the Iranians.

Time will inform, however there may be each likelihood Iran will write a long-awaited new chapter of their World Cup historical past within the coming weeks.

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