To prepare you for the tournament, The18 has launched team-by-team previews for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. This is the preview for Group B's Iran.
Iran World Cup 2022 Preview
World Cup appearances: 6th
Best finish: Group stage (every time)
How they got here: Iran finished top of Group A, above South Korea, in AFC qualifying.
Coach: Carlos Queiroz (Portuguese)
Strongest XI: (4-4-2) Alireza Beiranvand; Ehsan Hajsafi, Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Majid Hosseini, Sadegh Moharrami; Ali Gholizadeh, Ahmad Nourollahi, Saeid Ezatolahi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh; Mehdi Taremi, Sardar Azmoun
Injuries: Sardar Azmoun (questionable, calf)
What's to like: After pushing Spain and Portugal to the brink in the group stage of the 2018 tournament, Iran returns with a core group that's quietly confident of springing a surprise. The team has some big names in attack: Porto's Mehdi Taremi is at the height of his power, and Bayer Leverkusen's Sardar Azmoun and Feyenoord's Alireza Jahanbakhsh also provided the goals during an efficient qualifying campaign.
Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand made noise at the last World Cup by saving a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty, and he has some experienced heads in front of him in captain Ehsan Hajsafi and defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi.
Manager Carlos Queiroz has also been reinstalled, and he now leads Team Melli to a third World Cup after also serving as manager in 2014 and 2018. The Portuguese boss quickly guided his side to an impressive win over Uruguay and draw with Senegal during September's friendlies.
What's not to like: The dramatic appointment of Queiroz on Sep. 7 after the firing of Croatian boss Dragan Skočić, who guided Iran through qualification, represented an ongoing power struggle at a federation (FFIRI) that, like all other parts of Iranian society, has been impacted by the ongoing protests in Iran.
Iran beat who it was supposed to in qualifying, but the two matches against South Korea ended in a draw and defeat. At the 2018 tournament, the side failed to score a goal from open play, and they'll again adopt a defensive approach in Qatar — especially with Azmoun struggling for fitness after a torn calf muscle.
Iran has never progressed beyond the group stage (although they did famously beat the U.S. in '98) and the draw hasn't been kind to them once again.
X-Factor: Alireza Jahanbakhsh heads to his third World Cup as one of Iran's leading attackers after scoring four in qualifying from the wing.
Best hair: Sardar Azmoun
Most likely to fuck it all up: Hossein Kanaanizadegan has emerged as one part of a central defensive pairing that's likely to be exposed at this level.
What will make this a good World Cup: A trip to the last-16 would be historic, but beating the United States would be just as celebrated.
Bonus prediction: Is playing England first the way to go? The Three Lions drew with Sweden to open in 2002, narrowly defeated Paraguay 1-0 in 2006, drew with the USMNT in 2010, lost to Italy in 2014 and needed a late goal to beat Tunisia in 2018.