Iran FIFA 2014 World Cup Team Guide
Iran have landed in Group F for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and their reward for coming through a truly gruelling qualifying regime in Asia is a shot at glory against three incredibly strong sides.
So before we settle down to watch Carlos Queiroz's men take on Lionel Messi's Argentina, Edin Dzeko's Bosnia and Herzegovina and John Obi Mikel's Nigeria, let's get to know them a little better.
Who's the key man, the star striker, the one to watch and just how did they reach the finals in Brazil?
Road to the Finals
Iran came through a long, gruelling qualifying campaign to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup.
They were seeded for the Round 2 draw and comfortably dispatched the Maldives 5-0 on aggregate. Then, they moved onto the third phase and topped Group E ahead of Qatar and Bahrain.
In the fourth and final qualifying phase, Iran were drawn alongside South Korea and Uzbekistan in a formidable setup, but they lost just twice on the way to beating off every challenger and emerging in first yet again.
They won as many games as Japan and qualified for the tournament proper soon after their East Asian rivals did.
Queiroz has selected a 28-man preliminary squad to attend the finals; later, that will be whittled down to 23.
Here is a full guide to every player in contention to fly to Brazil in June.
We all know Queiroz, right?
The Portuguese redefines the word nomadic with every passing year, and at 61 years of age, he is currently in his 12th different role in world football.
He flitted across the globe after ending a substandard playing career in the mid-1970s; Portugal, Portugal U-20s, Sporting, MetroStars, Nagoya Grampus Eight, United Arab Emirates and South Africa all used his services at one time or another.
A strong year assisting Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United attracted Real Madrid to his services, and in 2003, he took charge of Los Blancos. A Super Cup win signalled a strong start, but the team fell out of the Liga title race pitifully, surrendering it to Rafa Benitez's Valencia in meek fashion.
He was welcomed back to United and enjoyed a further four years at Old Trafford after receiving the axe at the Bernabeu, and in 2010, he took his native Portugal (again) to the World Cup in South Africa.
His defensive philosophy reared its unwanted head once again, though, and despite hitting North Korea for six, the team failed to score in their other three games.
For Iran, though, that careful nature is welcomed, and the Persian Stars are built upon a solid defensive foundation that will make itself tough to break down at all times. In many ways, it's something of a perfect match.
Star Man: Javad Nekounam
Iran's star player and captain is Javad Nekounam, who has crafted a reputation for scoring long-range thunderbolts from deep in midfield.
His record of 37 goals from 136 international showings is remarkable given the paucity of quality surrounding him, and his return stands close to that of Ali Karimi's (38 from 127)—the Wizard of Iran.
Another option here for the Persian Stars is new-found wonder striker Reza Ghoochannejhad.
1 to Watch: Ashkan Dejagah
Ashkan Dejagah has recently been relegated from the Premier League with Fulham, so expect him to take all of his aggression out on the World Cup this summer with Iran.
Queiroz knows he is his best right-sided option and is certain to start in a three-pronged line behind Ghoochannejhad.
He offers pace, tenacity, a rasping long shot and tries his utmost for the good of his nation; he is one of the few in the squad who can match a strong mentality with a high level of playing.
World Cup Record and Statistics
Iran first attempted to qualify for the World Cup in 1974, but they failed to reach the showpiece event in West Germany.
They made it to Argentina '78 for a maiden appearance but were knocked out in the first round, finishing bottom of Group 4 behind Scotland, Netherlands and Peru.
The Persian Stars then withdrew from Spain '82, were disqualified at Mexico '86 and didn't resurface until France '98. A 1-0 loss to Yugoslavia set the tone, and despite beating the U.S., they were trounced by Germany and finished third.
Germany '06 then spelt out a similar story of disappointment, and Iran stand one of the few nations never to make it past the group stage of the World Cup.
Most appearances at World Cup finals: Mehdi Mahdavikia (six)
Oldest player to feature at World Cup finals: Ali Daei (37)
Youngest player to feature at World Cup finals: Hossein Kaebi (20 years and nine months)
Most capped players: Daei (149), Nekounam (136), Karimi (127), Mahdavikia (111), Kaebi (89), Karim Bagheri (87)
Iran vs. Nigeria
June 16, 2014 (4 p.m. local)—Arena da Baixada, Curitiba
Argentina vs. Iran
June 21, 2014 (1 p.m. local)—Estadio Mineirao, Belo Horizonte
Bosnia and Herzegovina vs. Iran
June 25, 2014 (1 p.m. local)—Arena Fonte Nova, Salvador