England get their World Cup campaign under way against Iran on Monday.
Ahead of the Group B clash at the Khalifa International Stadium, the PA news agency takes a closer look at the Three Lions’ first opponents in Qatar.
How did they get to Qatar?
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) January 27, 2022
Iran were the first Asian team to seal qualification for this World Cup as they wrapped up progress with three matches to spare and topped Group A ahead of South Korea.
What is their World Cup pedigree?
This is Team Melli’s sixth finals appearances, having made their debut in 1978.
Iran are at their third successive World Cup and hoping to make it out of the group stage for the first time.
Sat 20th in FIFA’s rankings – the highest ranked team in the Asian Football Confederation – they performed admirably in Russia four years ago, but have won just two of their 15 previous matches at the World Cup.
Who is the coach?
Dragan Skocic led Iran to World Cup qualification but the divisive head coach’s dismissal led to the return of Carlos Queiroz.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant at Manchester United was in charge of the Asian side at the 2014 and 2018 World Cups during a successful seven-year stint.
Spells at the helm of Colombia and Egypt followed, with the latter’s penalty shootout defeat to Senegal in qualification leaving Queiroz out of work and ready to watch Qatar 2022 from afar.
But Iran’s late call means the 69-year-old will charge of his fourth finals, having also coached Portugal, his homeland, at the 2010 edition.
What can we expect from them?
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) September 19, 2022
Queiroz may have only been in the hotseat for two months but his deep knowledge of Iran’s players will be a big help.
The Portuguese made sure his well-drilled side kept things tight during his previous spell in charge and a 4-3-3 formation looks on the cards in Qatar, allowing the team to sit back and break.
What is their recent form?
Mehdi Taremi secured Iran an impressive 1-0 friendly win against Uruguay in September, which was followed by a 1-1 draw with fellow World Cup qualifiers Senegal.
Iran also squeezed in a pre-tournament friendly on November 10 against Nicaragua, which they won 1-0.
Who is the player to watch?
There are some quality players in the Iranian ranks.
Porto man has impressed on the Champions League stage and forms an exciting front three with ex-Brighton winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh and star turn Sardar Azmoun.
The 27-year-old, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen, is nicknamed the ‘Iranian Messi’ and is a forward to be feared.