Iran will be making its third straight appearance in the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, bringing them to six qualifications for the world’s biggest soccer stage. However, team Melli has struggled in the tournament, having never made it out of the group stage with only two wins.
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The Two Iranian Wins
The first win for the Iranian national soccer team was against the United States in the 1998 World Cup in France. It was just the second time the country had qualified for the World Cup and the first time in 20 years.
Team Melli was the clear underdog in a group that featured the United States, Germany, and FR Yugoslavia. They would lose to the two teams that would top the group in Germany and FR Yugoslavia but essentially knock the United States out of the tournament with a 2-1 win. It was the only two goals scored by Iran in the tournament, but it was enough to get the country’s first win.
Before the game against the United States, the two sides took a joint picture, with the Iranian national team handing flowers to its opponents. The two nations were in the middle of a political conflict, and the gesture was a sign of peace before the match started.
It would take another 20 years for Iran to get its second win in the World Cup, beating Morocco in the 2018 tournament held in Russia. Again being drawn into a tough group that featured Spain and Portugal, team Melli was able to hold its own, finishing just one point from advancing to the round of 16.
The win over Morocco was Iran’s first tournament match and was destined for a draw. The match entered stoppage time tied at 0 before an own-goal six minutes after the 90th minute secured Iran’s second win.
In the final match in the group stage, Iran drew with Portugal, giving the national team its highest point total in the World Cup, with four. A stoppage-time penalty by Karim Ansarifard tied the game at one.
The Possibilities of a New Moment
Once again, Iran has been placed in a challenging group that features the United States, England, and Wales. Every team in Group B is ranked in the top 20 by FIFA, with Iran sitting as the lowest team at 20th. However, when you look closely into each one, team Melli does have a chance to be a massive surprise and move on from the group.
England and the United States national teams are struggling ahead of the World Cup. England has just been relegated out of the top tier UEFA Nations League, a tournament in which they looked terrible, getting just three points, all on draws.
In the final two warm-up games against World Cup teams in Japan and Saudi Arabia, the United States looked lost. Japan dominated them in a 2-0 loss in which the United States had 0 shots on goal, and against Saudi Arabia, it didn’t look much better in a scoreless draw.
Wales is also a question mark, having to qualify through the playoffs while also featuring a team depending on aging star Gareth Bale to create offense. They have also been relegated in the UEFA Nations League, with just one point.
Based on how Iran played in 2018, they could be much more of a challenge than people may expect. On BetUS, Iran’s odds to advance out of Group B are +230, which is the lowest in the group but could hit.