STEGERSBACH, May 30: Iran will start the World Cup as rank outsiders but their players have vowed to make life tough for their fancied opponents in Brazil.
“No game is going to be easy for us,” midfielder Andranik Teymourian said at a training camp in eastern Austria.
“But playing against Iran is not going to be easy for any of the opponents,” he warned.
The Islamic Republic start their fourth World Cup finals in Group F against Argentina, Nigeria and Bosnia.
They have never made it past the first round and are widely predicted to struggle this time.
Iran won just one point at their last appearance in Germany in 2006 with a draw against Angola. Their previous World Cup outings were in 1978 and 1998. They have a record of one win, two draws and six defeats from nine World Cup matches.
They head to Brazil, however, having topped their Asian qualifying group ahead of South Korea — a fact the players will not let anyone forget.
“This shows the enormous fighting spirit shown by the players, proven in the qualifications, and the fact that we could qualify is an absolutely tremendous achievement for our team and I personally hope that we can be one of the favourites also,” said Teymourian.
Iran, coached by former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz, want to use the World Cup stage to defy their 37th place on FIFA’s rankings and prove their worth.
“That’s like a window for all the world, all the countries can see it, so we’re going to be our best and get a result in the World Cup,” promised Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who plays for Dutch side NEC Nijmegen.
The first test will be against Nigeria on June 16.
“I think it’s going to be a tough battle,” said defender Steven Beitashour, a 2012 MLS All-Star player, now with the Vancouver WhiteCaps.
“If you can start off the World Cup right and get the win, I think you have a good chance of getting to the next round.”
The US-born Beitashour is one of several dual-nationals called up by Queiroz, alongside Ashkan Dejagah and Reza Ghoochannejhad — who played for the German and Dutch youth sides respectively — and Iranian-German Daniel Davari from Eintracht Braunschweig.
For the WhiteCaps player: “The possibility to represent the country on the biggest stage, it’s a dream come true.”
Ahead of the camp, disputes between Queiroz and the Iranian football federation, as well as reports of shoddy kit — including shrinking socks — garnered a lot of attention.
But the players were keen to set these problems aside.
“We had some problems but now everything’s ok for us,” Jahanbakhsh insisted.
“There is a lot of this kind of news, some of it is true but more of it is wrong.
“We don’t care much about these kinds of things because we should focus on our team, just focus on the football and not anything else.”
The players are also realistic about the Group F mountain ahead.
“Regardless of who you’re playing, it’s going to be a tough match-up. There’s a reason these teams are in the World Cup,” Beitashour cautioned.
Without big-name players, Iran are banking on simple qualities to make it through to the last 16.
“With us, it’s just one of those things where we’re a good team and we stick together and we really have a lot of fight. We have a lot of passion on the team for sure,” said Beitashour.