After the heavyweights Portugal and Spain, it is time to introduce you the Iran Football national team who will start their campaign as +260 favorites against Morocco, according to the Bet365 Sportsbook, on June 15th, 2018, at Saint Petersburg Stadium. Five days later, the Iranian Lions will face the Red Fury at Kazan Arena in Kazan as +1800 underdogs, while the bookmakers set the spread at 2.5 goals for +100 in the under. Iran meets Portugal in their third match of the group phase on June 25th, 2018, at Mordovia Arena in Saransk, and they are a huge out-of-towner in this one, too (+750 to win).
In four past occurrences on the biggest stage, the Iranian Lions never reached the second round, and the bookies set them as -800 favorites to replicate this result this summer in Russia. There are just four teams who are bigger underdogs in the 2018 FIFA World Cup than Iran, while it is ungrateful to expect from them to qualify for the Round of 16 in a stiff competition with Spain and Portugal. However, Iran’s hard-working mentality and a fanatic defensive approach could make them a tough opponent to beat.
Winner: +50000 at Bet365 Sportsbook
To Reach Semi-Finals: +6600
To Reach Quarter-Finals: +1400
Group Qualifying Yes/No: +500 / -800
Group Phase Matches:
|Iran||Morocco||+260||+190||+125||+160 / -211|
|Iran||Spain||+1800||+500||-550||-125 / +100|
|Iran||Portugal||+750||+375||-275||+105 / -134|
If you are a true fan who breeds football, you should know some guys from this Iran team, but if you just stay indifferent to all their names, who could blame you. Probably the biggest star is the 31-year old midfielder Ashkan Dejagah (44 caps, 8 goals), a former VFL Wolfsburg and Fulham member who’s currently a free agent. Ehsan Hajsafi (89 caps, 6 goals), the 27-year old versatile midfielder from Olympiacos Athens, is another key member of this team, while the forwards Sardar Azmoun (30 caps, 22 goals), Karim Ansarifard (59 caps, 19 goals), and Reza Ghoochannejhad (39 caps, 17 goals) will be the biggest threat for Iran’s opponents in Russia.
The head coach Carlos Queiroz is leading the Iranian Lions for almost seven years now, and a former Manchester United assistant manager is a worldwide known for his brilliant tactical approach. Queiroz prefers a 4-4-2 formation, but with Iran, he often plays in a 4-2-3-1 or a 4-3-3 formation, while he’s quite strict with his tactical demands, and the Iranian Lions are well-known for their fluid defense with all ten men on the field.
The road to 2018 World Cup: Iran has finished on the top of the AFC World Cup qualification Group A with 22 points, a 6-4-0 record and a 10:2 goal difference, ahead of South Korea, Syria, Uzbekistan, China PR, and Qatar. On the home soil, they’ve recorded four wins and a 2-2 draw with Syria in the last round with an 8:2 goal difference, while they’ve kept the clean sheet in all five matches away from home, recording two wins and three draws in the process. Two months ago, Iran played a couple of friendly games, beating Panama 2:1, and Venezuela 1:0.
Gains: Their defense is tremendous since Carlos Queiroz took the helm, and their hard-working and disciplined game could cause a lot of problems to the other teams in the group. On the other side, quick counter-attacks should be their strongest weaponry.
Shortcomings: Iranians are not good technicians, and they don’t possess an individual quality to decide the winner, while they often struggle to find the net against the stronger rivals. You just can’t look for a bunch of goals from these guys.
Players to Watch: Ashkan Dejagah, Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun
Top Goalscorer: Karim Ansarifard +50000
MY PICK: Iran vs. Portugal Under 2.5 Goals (-134) – it is all about defense in Carlos Queiroz’s team, and the Portuguese tactician and his boys will have a chance to prove it against the European champions in their third game of the tournament, while this could be a deciding match for both sides, so I’m backing the under as my first pick.
ADDITIONAL PICK: Iran vs. Morocco Under 2 Goals (-117) – the opening clash is always a tricky one, and I expect to see a patient approach on both sides. This game could be easily decided with a single goal.
Against the Odds: Iran to Win vs. Morocco (+260) – I just cannot see Iran qualifying from the Group B, as they are listed as +500 favorites to catch the first two spots of the group table, but if the Iranian Lions want to reach the second round, they will probably need three points from their opening match against Morocco.