|Ebrahim Mirzapour||Goalkeeper||Foolad Khuzestan|
|Hassan Roudbarian||Goalkeeper||Pas Tehran|
|Vahid Talebloo||Goalkeeper||Esteghlal Teheran|
|Sohrab Bakhtiarizadeh||Defender||Saba Battery|
|Yahya Golmohammadi||Defender||Saba Battery|
|Hossein Kaabi||Defender||Foolad Khuzestan|
|Mohammad Nosrati||Defender||Pas Tehran|
|Rahman Rezaei||Defender||Messina (Italy)|
|Amir Hossein Sadeqi||Defender||Esteghlal Teheran|
|Sattar Zare||Defender||Bargh Shiraz|
|Ali Karimi||Midfielder||Bayern Munich (Germany)|
|Mehdi Mahdavikia||Midfielder||Hamburg SV (Germany)|
|Javad Nekounam||Midfielder||Sharjah (United Arab Emirates)|
|Anderanik Teymourian||Midfielder||Abomoslem Khorasan|
|Fereydoon Zandi||Midfielder||Kaiserslautern (Germany)|
|Arash Borhani||Forward||Pas Teheran|
|Ali Daei||Forward||Saba Battery|
|Reza Enayati||Forward||Esteghlal Teheran|
|Vahid Hashemian||Forward||Hannover 96 (Germany)|
|Rasoul Khatibi||Forward||Sepahan Isfahan|
|Head Coach:||Branko Ivankovic|
Style of play: Croatian Branko Ivankovic used a defensive 4-2-3-1 lineup when he first took over as coach in 2002, but has since switched to a more attacking 4-4-2, a formation that better capitalizes on Iran's creative depth and speed in midfield. Centre midfielders Ali Karimi and Mehdi Mahdavikia are the team's main creators, pushing forward through the middle and providing service for the two strikers, Ali Daei and Vahid Hashemian. If Iran wants to preserve a lead, Ivankovic will likely switch to a defensive 4-1-3-2 and have midfielder Javad Nekounam play in front of the defence as a shield, or have Hashemian drop back into midfield and convert to a 4-5-1. Iran lacks defensive stability, so it uses a flat back four, with the outside fullbacks rarely venturing forward in support of attack.
Probable starting formation (4-4-2): (GK) Ebrahim Mirzapour - (D) Hossein Kaabi, Yahya Golmohammadi, Mohammad Nosrati, Rahman Rezaei - (M) Mehdi Mahdavikia, Ali Karimi, Javad Nekounam, Fereydoon Zandi - (F) Ali Daei, Vahid Hashemian.
Attack - Iran has a deep reservoir of attacking players, both up front and in midfield. Veteran striker Ali Daei scored nine goals in qualifying and is Iran's all-time leading scorer with 109 goals. Bayern Munich midfielder Ali Karimi, who can also play up front, has a keen scoring touch, as do midfielder Mehdi Mahdavikia and striker Vahid Hashemian.
No pressure - Nobody expects Iran to advance from Group D. Instead, all eyes will be on traditional soccer powers Portugal and Mexico to finish 1-2, meaning Iran won't have any pressure and can just concentrate on playing. Iran can simply go for broke and focus on earning a point off Mexico and Portugal in their first two games, and then go for a win against Angola.
Coaching - Branko Ivankovic is a coach known for his motivational skills. A former assistant with the Croatian national team, Ivankovic took over as coach of Iran in 2002 and enjoyed immediate success, leading his team to victory in the final of the Asian Games that year. Under Ivankovic's guidance, Iran also placed an impressive third at the 2004 Asian Cup.
Defence - Iran's porous defence is in shambles. Only Rahman Rezaei, of Italian club Messina, offers any quality at the back. Coach Ivankovic still can't decide who his best four defenders are, as he has had problems filling in the left fullback position. Opposing teams will score, and score often, against Iran.
Overall quality - Paramount to Iran's chances for success will be four talented players based in Germany's Bundesliga: striker Vahid Hashemian and midfielders Ali Karimi, Mehdi Mahdavikia and Fereydoon Zandi. Aside from captain Ali Daei and Rezaei, the quality level really drops off after that for Iran, as they must rely on players who ply their trade in the Iranian league.
Untested in qualifying - Iran didn't exactly face quality opponents in the qualifying campaign. Victories over such soccer lightweights as Qatar, Laos, Bahrain and North Korea allowed the Iranian's to stamp its passport for Germany with little trouble. Facing a bunch of pushovers isn't the ideal preparation for a tournament where they will face the top teams in the world.
Players to watch:
Ali Karimi - Dubbed the Persian Maradona by Iranian journalists, Karimi was voted the Asian player of the year in 2004 and brings a touch of class to the Iranian team with his deft scoring touch and direct runs. A star with German champions Bayern Munich, Karimi boasts mesmerizing dribbling skills, speed, power and balance. One of Asia's greatest players.
Ali Daei - A legend in Iranian soccer. Many critics say the 36-year-old team captain is past his prime, but the striker demonstrated he still has a lot to offer by leading all scorers in Asian qualifying with nine goals. A player with plenty to offer, including veteran leadership.
Rahman Rezaei - A talented, stalwart defender who has made a name for himself the last five years playing in Serie A, Italy's first division. A no-nonsense stopper who holds the Iranian defence together, Rezaei isn't shy about bombing forward, helping his team launch quick counter-attacks. Considered by most as the best Asian defender playing today.
Key injuries/ squad omissions: Iranian-league based midfielder Masoud Shojai was a surprise selection.
Prognosis: One of the strongest teams in Asia, Iran makes its return to the World Cup after an eight-year absence. After missing out four years ago thanks to a 2-1 aggregate playoff defeat to the Republic of Ireland, Iran bounced back by qualifying comfortably for Germany 2006. Its No. 23 ranking in the current FIFA world rankings overestimates their place in soccer's global hierarchy, but Iran is a quality side that could surprise in Germany. First place is out of the question, but they are capable of displacing Mexico for second place in Group D. If they somehow make it to the second round, that's where their journey will end. More than likely, however, Iran will be going home after the first round with only a victory against Angola to show for itself.
Road to the World Cup
Current FIFA Ranking: #23
1st round matches:
June 11 vs. Mexico in Nuremburg
June 17 vs. Portugal in Frankfurt
June 21 vs. Angola in Leipzig
2006 qualification route: Iran finished in first place (15 points)
in Asia's Group 1 ahead of Jordan (12 points) in the first round of qualifying.
It finished second (13 points) in Group B in the final round behind Japan
Qualifying record: 12 games played, 9 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses
Goals for: 29 Goals against: 7
Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Ali Daei (9)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
Feb. 18, 2004 - Iran 3, Qatar 1
March 31, 2004 - Laos 0, Iran 7
June 9, 2004 - Iran 0, Jordan 1
Sept. 8, 2004 - Jordan 0, Iran 2
Oct. 13, 2004 - Qatar 2, Iran 3
Nov. 17, 2004 - Iran 7, Laos 0
Feb. 9, 2005 - Bahrain 0, Iran 0
March 25, 2005 - Iran 2, Japan 1
March 30, 2005 - North Korea 0, Iran 2
June 3, 2005 - Iran 1, North Korea 0
June 8, 2005 - Iran 1, Bahrain 0
Aug. 17, 2005 - Japan 2, Iran 1
World Cup History
FIFA member since: 1945
Team nickname: Team Melli
All-time caps leader: Ali Daei (147)
All-time leading scorer: Ali Daei (109)
Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 2
All-time record: 6 games played, 1 win, 1 draw, 4 losses
Goals for: 4 Goals against: 12
World Cup History:
1930 to 1970 - Did not enter
1974 - Did not qualify
1978 - First round
1982 - Did not enter
1986 - Disqualified from the qualifiers
1990 - Did not qualify
1994 - Did not qualify
1998 - First round
2002 - Did not qualify
Biggest victory: 2-1 vs. U.S. in 1998
Biggest defeat: 3-0 vs. the Netherlands in 1978, 4-1 vs. Peru in 1978
Top scorer: four players tied at 1 goal apiece
Most appearances: Several players (3 matches)
Hosted the World Cup: None
Asian Cup Champions: 1968, 1972, 1976
Khodadad Azizi: Striker who enjoyed stints with German club Cologne and the San Jose Earthquakes of the U.S.-based Major League Soccer. Scored a dramatic goal in a qualifier against Australia that sent Iran to the 1998 World Cup in France. Voted Asian player of the year in 1996, the first Iranian to win the award.
Iraj Danaei-Fard: Scored Iran's first goal ever at the World Cup, an equalizer with 30 minutes left in regulation to help his country earn a shocking 1-1 draw with Scotland at the 1978 tournament. Scored three goals in 17 appearances for Iran from 1977-80.