March 29, 2023
Carlos Queiroz in a training with the Iranian National Team

(Photo taken from Instagram: @carlosqueiroz_)

If one was to put a title to Iran’s World Cup Russia 2018 campaign, 'so near and yet so far' would just about sum it up. Now, four years on, Team Melli are looking to restore the formula that took them within inches of making history.

In Russia, Iran picked up four points from what had previously been deemed an impossible group, featuring 2010 world champions Spain and a Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal. A lucky deflection off Diego Costa and a trademark Ricardo Quaresma outside-of-the-boot strike from long-range ended up being the only two goals conceded by Carlos Queiroz’s men in their three games.

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However, a 1-0 opening win against Morocco and a point collected against his native Portugal was not enough for Queiroz to create history for Iran as they finished third. Just two months before kick-off in Doha, Queiroz is back to take care of unfinished business in Iran and is targeting a historic first round-of-16 qualification after five unsuccessful attempts is the target. There is a definite feeling of déjà vu, with Iran drawn in Group B for the second time in a row, participating in the FIFA World Cup under the same manager for the third successive edition and facing a rematch against USA that will add to the sense of nostalgia for those old enough to recall the sides’ first encounter at France 1998.

Queiroz’s approach and tactics

The experienced Portuguese tactician returns to Team Melli after a seven-year first spell in which his playing style can be summed up in one word: ‘solid’. In 16 games played across four major international tournaments, Queiroz’s Iran kept an impressive total of ten clean sheets and conceded only ten goals in regular time, six of which came in uncharacteristic collapses against Bosnia and Herzegovina (1-3) at the FIFA World Cup Brazil 2014 and Japan (0-3) in the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019. Throughout this run, Queiroz often set-up his side in a system that fluctuated between a 4-3-3 and 4-5-1, with two players often forming a double-pivot in front of a flat backline and width provided by the two wingers, roles likely to be played by Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Mehdi Taremi.

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