World Cup Preview, Group F: Iran
Will they be the World Cup's whipping boys, or can Dejagah and company spring a surprise or two?
Sardar Azmoun has been dubbed (yawn) the ‘Iranian Messi’ and earned rave reviews in Russia for his displays at Rubin Kazan. Liverpool, Arsenal and Tottenham have all been linked with the 19-year-old, who has just the one cap for Iran but is expected to be part of Carlos Queiroz’ final World Cup squad.
Azmoun himself does not lack confidence and recently said that AC Milan, Barcelona and Juventus were also interested in signing him.
He told TV show Navad: "I have offers from three major clubs: Arsenal, AC Milan and Juventus.
"I also had an offer from Barcelona, but due to their transfer ban the club is out of the picture at the moment.
"I'm very proud to have Arsenal looking at me but, as I said, right now I'm only focusing on the Russian league."
As for the remainder of the Iranian squad, Premier League fans will recognise the name of Ashkan Dejagah, one of the few Cottagers players to emerge with any credit from a season of turmoil.
Iran are not the most inspiring of sides and are many bookies’ favourites to be the worst side in Brazil.
Queiroz’ side only conceded two goals in eight qualifying games, however, so having named the only standout talent in the squad – that being Azmoun – already, we’re going to use this section to give mention to the tightest of tight back fours.
They probably won’t be pretty to watch.
Did you know?
Football is by far the most popular sport in Iran, ahead of cricket, baseball and women’s rugby.
Reasons for Irish fans to support them
There are currently more than 2,000 Iranians living in Ireland, with most living in Cork and Dublin. Expect to see a few flags waving around the capital and People’s Republic if the Iranian Messi manages to upstage the real thing.
If they were a TV series
McGyver. The individual pieces may not look like they’re up to much, but could they be turned into a killing machine of justice? (Probably not.)
Sorry Carlos, but Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia and Herzegovina are all a lot stronger.
Odds with Ladbrokes: 3000/1