Outright Odds: 750/1
Group D Winners: 14/1
Iran’s last appearance in the World Cup, back in 1998, produced a shock 2-1 victory over the United States, in what could have been described as a very diplomatic result. After qualifying emphatically for this year’s tournament, including a 2-1 home victory over Japan, Iran will be expected to more than merely make up the numbers.
Iran won nine out of their 11 matches and qualified with a match to spare, although were pipped to the top spot by Japan, who beat them in the return fixture in the final round of fixtures.
Their efforts did not go unnoticed and they ranked at an all-time high of 15 in June 2005, ahead of fellow qualifiers Ukraine and Sweden and European champions Greece. To give you some idea of their position in the world game, they were rated just one place below Italy.
Iran are blessed with a plethora of attacking talent. Veteran striker and captain Ali Daei is the most prolific ever in international football with over 100 goals to his name and he topped the Asian scoring charts with nine qualifying goals. He will be 37 in Germany and this will surely be his last major finals.
Hamburg’s Mehdi Mahdavika, who netted the decisive goal against the United States eight years ago and Bayern Munich’s Ali Karimi, who was crowned 2004 Asian Footballer of the Year will be recognisable to the domestic audience. Mahdavika has emerged as Iran’s major attacking force in Daei’s twighlight years and has been given license to support the attack rather than being restricted to his traditional spot on the right wing.
Striker Vahid Hashemian is another player with Bundesliga experience, plying his trade for Hannover 96 following a transfer from Bayern Munich, as does midfielder Fereydoon Zandi who plays for Kaiserslautern.
Iran are lead by Croatian coach Branko Ivankovic who has successfully rebuilt the side which failed to qualify for the 2002 finals after losing to the Republic of Ireland in the play-offs.
While the victory over the United States sticks in the memory, it is the country’s only victory in six attempts at the finals and overall the squad lacks experience at the highest level, especially in defence. While Ivankovic has turned Iran’s fortunes around, they will need more than good morale to see them through a tough qualifying group and their final match against Angola could be their only chance of success.
Despite their improvement, it is unlikely Iran will get anything from their matches against Mexico and Portugal but their attacking prowess could yield a final match victory against Angola at odds-against.
Iran to beat Angola @ 6/4
David Walker runs a free World Cup bets website and written World Cup previews . A free 45-page World Cup guide is available from the website and features a “free World Cup football shirt" offer.