All anybody — Iranian or in any other case — is basically desirous about is that closing Group B match in opposition to the United States. But Iran may need one thing to supply earlier than then, with Carlos Queiroz, previously of Manchester United and Real Madrid, again in cost for his fourth World Cup. Plus they’ve the goalkeeper with football’s longest throw…
Iran head coach Queiroz has a formidable report. He guided South Africa to qualification for the 2002 World Cup finals however resigned earlier than the match, earlier than the primary of two stints as Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United. He coached Real Madrid in 2003-04, and managed Portugal on the 2010 World Cup. He masterminded Iran’s 2014 and 2018 World Cup campaigns throughout an eight-year tenure that made him the longest-serving and most profitable coach within the historical past of “Team Melli” (nationwide crew in Farsi).
Three years and two failed spells with Colombia and Egypt later, the Mozambique-born coach returned to Iran in September to exchange Croatian Dragan Skocic, who had steered the crew to qualification.
After Iran and the United States have been drawn collectively in Group B, Queiroz’s title re-entered the dialog. In 1998, Queiroz wrote a report for US Soccer’s Project 2010, a plan to information the US to win the World Cup by 2010. With a longtime relationship with the president of the Iranian FA, Mehdi Taj, Queiroz returned to the job.
His soccer model is organized, stable and uncompromisingly defensive, with a hardworking midfield that creates alternatives for the entrance gamers. His most typical formation is 4-1-4-1, which might shift to 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-1-1.
Queiroz could be very well-liked in Iran. Throughout the years, regardless of media criticism about his soccer at occasions, Queiroz has understood the struggling of Iranians and managed to appeal them. That helped him instill an underdog mentality that united the gamers, followers and nation. Amid ongoing pressure with the US and the West, plus social turmoil, Queiroz’s philosophy — “us in opposition to the world” — matches Iran like a glove. For the match in opposition to the USMNT and these in opposition to England and Wales, count on this motivation for use because the glue for Queiroz’s squad.
The family title you have not heard of but
Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand of Tehran-based facet Persepolis has fairly a story. Born to a nomadic household within the Zagros Mountains in western Iran, Beiranvand labored as a shepherd. In his free time, he performed soccer and a native sport referred to as del Paran, which entails throwing stones for the furthest distance potential.
That may clarify his capacity to throw balls to nice lengths throughout matches. Beiranvand holds the Guinness World Record for the longest throw of a ball in a skilled soccer match. In 2016, in a sport in opposition to South Korea, he recorded a throw of 61.26m.
Alireza Beiranvand, the goalkeeper of Iran nationwide crew & @boavistaoficialhas achieved @GWR world report of “Farthest distance throw of a soccer in a aggressive match” for his 61-meter throw throughout a 2016 match between Iran & South Korea on the 100,000 seater Azadi stadium pic.twitter.com/Rt6l6lgq8R
— Iran International English (@IranIntl_En) November 25, 2021
As a teenager, he was homeless in Tehran for a brief interval whereas attempting out for a few native groups. After establishing himself as a skilled footballer, he made it to the World Cup in 2018 and was in aim for Iran’s match in opposition to Portugal, throughout which he saved a penalty from Cristiano Ronaldo. Harry Kane, beware.
With Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Iran has a formidable attacking unit. With Queiroz again on the helm, they need to be extremely well-drilled tactically. The influence of his return was evident within the friendlies in opposition to Uruguay and Senegal (a 1-0 win and a 1-1 draw).
They performed with a number of defensive patterns on the again and elevated strain up entrance, with the midfield gamers operating and masking areas like madmen. Saeid Ezatolahi alone lined practically 13km in opposition to African champions Senegal. With an lively midfield and deadly forwards ready for counter-attacks, Iran will also be lethal in transitions.
Iran is more likely to miss Hull City’s Allahyar Sayyadmanesh. His harm is a critical blow as he has nice tempo and often provides a lot of aptitude to Iran’s sport, particularly on the counter-attack.
Team Melli’s weakest place is left-back. Ehsan Hajsafi, now 32 years previous, cannot play the position to the identical degree as in earlier tournaments, and the subsequent choice is the extra modest Abolfazl Jalali from Tehran facet Esteghlal. Hopefully, the stage will not be too massive for the 24-year-old.
A closing weak point is the dearth of management within the dressing room. As names resembling Masoud Shojaei and Ashkan Dejagah are now not a part of the crew, Hajsafi is the captain, however he lacks the management expertise the latter had. Queiroz clearly will take a lot on himself, however contemplating there are tensions between completely different teams inside the crew that have been current throughout Skocic’s period, that management hole may change into a important challenge.
Team Melli has a correct tradition round it. Aside from the unbelievable, noisy followers, historically, throughout World Cups, Iranian artists produce songs that accompany the crew throughout the video games and after. In 2014, Gole Iran by Ajam turned a hit so well-liked that it had a resurgence throughout the 2018 match.
This time round, with the present social environment, it’s unclear whether or not there will likely be songs or if the nationwide crew will likely be celebrated in the identical method. In early September this yr, Mahsa Amini, a younger girl, died after being detained by Tehran’s morality police. Her dying prompted a wave of mass protests for freedom, ladies and human rights all around the nation.
In 1998, when Iran performed the US on the France World Cup, activists of Mujahideen-e Khalq, an Iranian opposition motion, displayed pictures of the opposition chief, Maryam Rajavi. During Iran’s match in opposition to the USA in Qatar, there could also be some show by opposition actions, maybe together with tributes to Mahsa Amini, supporting the battle for freedom in Iran.
Expectations again house
Put merely: dream massive and beat the US. Traditionally, the media in Iran goal excessive and assert a lot of strain, whereas followers are extra sensible and supportive. Queiroz’s return modified the narrative a little, and now expectations of each followers and media have been cranked up a little greater.
Iranians know England and Wales are superior however consider that on their day, with a good efficiency, they may seize a level off both — and even each. Regardless, Iran’s high precedence on this World Cup is to beat the US within the closing group match.
This sport goes manner past soccer. A loss will see Iranian followers will grieve and grill Queiroz and his gamers. A win, and the celebrations in Tehran will rock, and for a second or two perhaps additionally convey a pause in protests or the authorities’ violence in the direction of protesters.
Read extra: See the remainder of The Athletic’s World Cup 2022 squad guides
(Photos: Getty Images; design: Sam Richardson)