Javad Nekounam Iran v Lebanon 7YF3UrQVGgCl
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Goalkeepers: Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan FC), Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha)

Defenders: Ahmad Alnameh (Naft Tehran FC), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Jalal Hosseini (Perspolis FC), Hossein Mahini (Perspolis FC), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal SC), Mehrdad Pooladi (Perspolis FC), Amirhossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal Tehran FC)

Midfielders: Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal Tehran FC), Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham FC), Ghasem Hadadifar (Zob Ahan Isfahan FC), Reza Haghighi (Perspolis FC), Ehsan Haji Safi (Sepahan FC), Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad Khuzestan FC), Andranik Timotian (Esteghlal Tehran FC)

Forwards: Karim Ansari Fard (Tractor Sazi Tabriz FC), Reza Ghoochannejad (Charlton Athletic), Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal Tehran), Alireza Jahan Bakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Masoud Shojaei (UD Las Palmas)


Team ProfileEdit

Iran will have their work cut out at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, as they look to advance past the group stage for the first time.

In their three previous visits to the finals - 1978, 1998 and 2006 - Iran failed to make it beyond the first phase, with just one win from nine attempts.

Their only success came at France '98, when they beat the United States 2-1, and the teams standing in their way in Group F this year will mean that they face a difficult task to improve that record.

Argentina, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Nigeria all represent tricky opposition for Carlos Queiroz's side.

Their first fixture, against the West African nation, appears their most likely hope of a success, with the two countries going head-to-head on June 16 in Curitiba.

Iran's form heading into the finals has been somewhat underwhelming, with a narrow 3-2 win over Kuwait via a 90th-minute goal and a 2-1 loss to Guinea earlier in 2014 before draws against Belarus, Montenegro and Angola in the build-up to the finals hardly inspiring confidence.

At least in Queiroz, they have a coach who has operated at the highest level.

The Portuguese was assistant to Alex Ferguson at Manchester United before taking charge of Real Madrid and then his home nation for a spell.

He has also managed South Africa and the United Arab Emirates and is no stranger to the unique demands of international football.

Iran's players will need to learn from all that experience supporting them from the bench if they are to cause an upset at the finals.

Leading their charge is captain Javad Nekounam, who has been in goalscoring form in the Kuwaiti Premier League for club Al Kuwait.

The midfielder, 33, played twice for Iran at the World Cup in Germany eight years ago.

Also with World Cup experience are Masoud Shojaei and Nekounam's fellow midfielder Andranik Teymourian - the latter of whom insists that his nation are not simply heading to Brazil to make up the numbers.

"No game is going to be easy for us," he said. "But playing against Iran is not going to be easy for any of our opponents."

Another midfielder, Ashkan Dejagah, has plenty of experience in the top leagues in Europe, after almost a decade in Germany with Hertha Berlin and Wolfsburg, and two years in the Premier League with Fulham.

The key route to goal for Iran will be Reza Ghoochannejhad.

Ghoochannejhad, 26, has just one goal for current club Charlton Athletic in 15 appearances in the English Championship but scored eight times in qualification for the World and Asian Cups.

At the back, the goalkeeping situation is a dilemma for Queiroz, with no clear first-choice pick.

He will decide between Grasshoppers Zurich shot-stopper Daniel Davari and Sepahan's Rahman Ahmadi.

Ahmadi had come out of retirement to help Iran qualify for Brazil, with his performance in their 1-0 win over South Korea particularly eye catching.

Iran will be pushed to advance out of their group, but adding to their only win at the World Cup finals will be their realistic goal heading to Brazil and it is not entirely beyond the realms of possibility that Queiroz's side could cause an upset.

Player Profile (Javad Nekounam)Edit

Position: Midfielder
Date of Birth: September 7, 1980
Club: Al Kuwait
International Debut: v Georgia (August 16, 2000)
World Cup Appearances: 2
World Cup Goals: 0

In what is likely to be his last chance of World Cup glory, Iran captain Javad Nekounam will not be taking any backward steps at Brazil 2014.

The 33-year-old midfielder's club career has been signposted by extensive stints at Persian Gulf Cup outfit Pas and La Liga club Osasuna, however, he has also given unrelenting service to his national side.

He has averaged over 11 games a year for his nation since 2002, when he added to his two friendly appearances with seven World Cup qualifying caps as Iran failed to reach the 2002 spectacle in South Korea and Japan.

In that qualifying campaign, he was twice a used substitute. Since, he has come off the bench just once as he has become a vital cog in the starting Irani midfield.

While he is a defensive midfield general, Nekounam can also produce goals in big games. He scored against Real Madrid at the Bernabeu in 2009, and more recently for his country, he has scored 10 goals across qualifying campaigns for Brazil, and also the 2015 Asian Cup in Australia.

Nekounam often unleashes from outside the area, but is also nimble via head and dead-ball alike.

While he has spent the vast majority of his career in the Gulf, plying his trade in Iran, the UAE and Kuwait, he is most known outside of his homeland for his stint in the Spanish top division.

That he has spent time on the football field among the likes of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo will be of limitless value to his side's chances of progressing out of Group F at this year's showpiece in Brazil, especially seeing as Messi's Argentina will be one of their opponents in the group stages.

By the time the finals roll around, Nekounam will have likely chalked up his 8,000th minute representing Iran.

But while he has played a major role for his country, his career has so far lacked the silverware to match his output.

Nekounam has won league titles with clubs Pas (2003-04) and Esteghlal (2012-13), but has few other noteworthy honours in terms of team success.

He has, however, continued to excel individually, finishing runner-up in the Asian Footballer of the Year voting in 2013, despite being well into his 30s.

Seeing as the next World Cup will take place when Nekounam is 37, Brazil is likely to be his last chance at some glory on the global stage.

Although if he can inspire his nation to great heights in South America when they meet the world's best, Iran - and Nekounam - could yet be back in Russia in 2018.

News SourcesEdit

Tehran Times -

Team Melli -

Payvand Iran -

Iran Daily -

Iran News Daily -

Iran FA website -