Pedigree Iran has missed only two World Cups since 1998, establishing itself as one of Asia’s four great powers. It has never made it past the group stage, winning only two of its 15 games, but this iteration has realistic ambitions of ending that hoodoo, thanks largely to its attacking pair of Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi.

The Coach The well-traveled Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz returned earlier this year after the dismissal of Dragan Skocic, the Serbian who had masterminded Iran’s qualification. Queiroz oversaw Iran’s World Cup campaigns in 2014 and 2018. This time, he is confident he can get the country to the knockout stage

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