Group F contains South American giants Argentina, African champions Nigeria, European hopefuls Bosnia-Herzegovina, all of whom we have already profiled today. Our focus now turns to Asia’s highest-ranked team at this year’s tournament, Iran.
Iran stuttered through their qualifying campaign, needing to win their last three matches to secure their place in Brazil – which they did. Having missed out on qualification for South Africa 2010, the Asians know they have their work cut out for them this time around if they want to progress out of the group stage for the first time.
Qualification: W 10, D 4, L 2
Previous World Cup appearances: 3
Best World Cup finish: Group stages (1978, 1998, 2006)
Current FIFA ranking: 43
Coach: Experienced coach Carlos Queiroz took over as manager of Iran in 2011, guiding them to their fourth-ever World Cup as group winners of their Asian qualifying pool. The 61-year-old knows what to expect at the global showpiece, having lead South Africa in the 2002 World Cup and Portugal in the tournament four years ago.
Captain and Key player: Having turned out for two clubs in the United Arab Emirates, veteran international Javad Nekounam’s solid displays at the 2006 World Cup earned him a move abroad to Spanish outfit Osasuna, becoming the first Iranian player to be signed by a Spanish club. He spent six successful years in Spain, making over 150 appearances for the club, and was even Osasuna’s second-highest top-scorer in the 2009 season from his position in the middle of the park.
Nekounam decided to return home in 2012, joining Iranian club Esteghlal before agreeing a deal with Kuwait SC, where he currently plies his trade.
Usually a central defensive midfielder, Nekounam is known for his ability to break up play and control the midfield, fulfilling the true ‘anchor man’ role. The 33-year-old is also a good passer of the ball, his creativity helping his side quickly turn defence into attack, while also possessing a keen eye for goal from range with his powerful right boot. The Iranian skipper has been likened to English midfielder Frank Lampard in terms of his style of play.
Nekounam received his first call-up to the Iranian national squad in the year 2000, and has since made over 130 appearances for Team Melli. The Asian Player of the Year runner-up for 2013 played a key role in his country’s qualification for Brazil 2014, ending as Iranian’s top goal-scorer with six as they topped their group.
Key fixture: Iran will need a positive result in their opening fixture against Nigeria if they harbour any hopes of progressing to the knockout stages of the tournament.
16 June, 21:00 Iran vs Nigeria
21 June, 18:00 Argentina vs Iran
25 June, 18:00 Bosnia-Herzegovina vs Iran
Don’t miss the current edition of KICKOFF magazine for 16 pages of World Cup analysis, plus TWO World Cup wall charts, so you can follow every game of the world showpiece.
Be sure to keep updated with all the news from your favourite teams in this year’s FIFA World Cup on KickOff.com, as well as coverage of a rising star that could shine in Brazil.