GROUP F
Iran

THE 60-SECOND OVERVIEW

Celebrating on the pitch in Seoul after their triumph over a tough Asian group, Iran’s players held aloft the World Cup trophy engraved with ‘Iran National Team’. The players had been given mini replicas pre-match - a motivational tool by their coach Carlos Queiroz, who wanted them to touch and believe that reaching Brazil was possible.

It was, but it’s unrealistic to expect Team Melli to raise the real thing in Rio. Nevertheless, the wily Queiroz, 61, who coached Portugal in South Africa, has recruited players from the country’s vast diaspora in qualifying, and they’ve made his team hard to beat.

THE DREAM

Qualification to the knockout stage. Posters of Iran teams from World Cup finals in Argentina 78, France 98 and Germany 06 hang in Tehran’s national stadium. All are held in legendary esteem for reaching the finals, but although they won or drew a game at each tournament, none progressed beyond their groups.

For Iran (ranked 42 in the world), getting past a line-up featuring Argentina (ranked third), Bosnia & Herzegovina (21) and Nigeria (47) is the aim. Queiroz also thinks that’s realistic for Asia’s highest-ranked side. And he wants to have fun. “I see us like a train of camels,” said Queiroz. “We’ve crossed the desert. Now we’ve reached the oasis and we're going to enjoy it.”

THE NIGHTMARE

Three defeats and a quick return to Tehran. Less is known about Iran than any of the other teams, but they don’t want to be an unknown quantity: they want to play against leading sides in friendly games to gain experience.

A combination of mistrust and sanctions means they’ve only played friendlies against the likes of Guinea, Mauritania and Mozambique (where Queiroz was born) in the last two years. The worry is they’ll be startled by quality, but Queiroz is wise and has arranged better tests against Montenegro, Austria and Belarus closer to the tournament. Plus Mozambique again, of course.

THE STATS
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DID YOU KNOW?

CARLOS Queiroz was in charge of a FIFA All-Star team for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s first ever game. Then he faced them as Portugal manager in a play-off for the 2010 World Cup.

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Carlos Quieroz's men are well-drilled and capable of causing a few upsets in an open group. They could become legends in Tehran.