IRAN enter the World Cup as underdogs in Group F and it's hard to see anything but an early exit.


Outright odds: 2500/1

To win group: 25/1

To qualify: 9/2


Full squad: Daniel Davari (Eintracht Braunschweig), Alireza Haghighi (Sporting Covilha, on loan from Rubin Kazan), Rahman Ahmadi (Sepahan), Hossein Mahini (Persepolis), Steven Beitashour (Vancouver Whitecaps), Pejman Montazeri (Umm Salal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Amir-Hossein Sadeghi (Esteghlal), Ahmad Alenemeh (Naft), Hashem Beikzadeh (Esteghlal), Mehrdad Pouladi (Persepolis), Javad Nekounam (Kuwait SC), Andranik Teymourian (Esteghlal), Reza Haghighi (Persepolis), Ghasem Haddadifar (Zob Ahan), Bakhtiar Rahmani (Foolad), Ehsan Hajsafi (Sepahan), Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham), Masoud Shojaei (Las Palmas), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (NEC Nijmegen), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Charlton), Karim Ansarifard (Tractor Saz, on loan from Persepolis), Khosro Heydari (Esteghlal).

Manager: Carlos Queiroz

World Cup record: Group stage (1978, 1998, 2006)

How they qualified (most recent first): Iran had to make it through three stages of the Asian qualifying set-up. Their spot in the finals was secured with a famous 1-0 win in South Korea in the final match of their fourth-round group campaign.

v South Korea (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ghoochannejhad 60

v Lebanon (home) 4-0 (HT 2-0) Khalatbari 39, Nekounam 45+1, 86, Ghoochannejhad 46

v Qatar (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Ghoochannejhad 66

v Uzbekistan (home) 0-1 (HT 0-0)

v South Korea (home) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Nekounam 76

v Lebanon (away) 0-1 (HT 0-1)

v Qatar (home) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Uzbekistan (away) 1-0 (HT 0-0) Khalatbari 90+3

v Qatar (home) 2-2 (HT 1-1) Dejagah 4, 50

v Indonesia (away) 4-1 (HT 3-1) Meydavoudi 7, Jabbari 21, Rezaei 25, Nekounam 73

v Bahrain (away) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Jabbari 90+2

v Bahrain (home) 6-0 (HT 3-0) Hosseini 22, Jabbari 34, Aghily 42, Teymourian 61, Ansarifard 75, Rezaei 83

v Qatar (away) 1-1 (HT 0-0) Aghily 46

v Indonesia (home) 3-0 (HT 0-0) Nekounam 53, 74, Teymourian 87

v Maldives (away) 1-0 (HT 1-0) Khalatbari 45+1

v Maldives (home) 4-0 (HT 1-0) Ansarifard 4, 62, Karimi 67, Daghighi 86

Goalscorers: Javad Nekounam scored four goals in as Iran finished top of Group E in the third round of the qualification journey. Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejhad netted three goals in the crucial final three qualifiers, including the winner in the final clash against South Korea to secure top spot. He's also been among the goals in the recent Asian Cup qualifiers.

Half-time/full-time: Five of Iran's eight games in the third round of qualifying were goalless at the break.

Clean sheets: Defence was clearly Iran's strength in the final round of qualifying. Six clean sheets were kept in the eight games with no team scoring more than one goal in a game against them.

Win to nil: Five of those clean sheets resulted in wins to nil, including the crucial three victories in a row to secure their place in Brazil.

Cards: Iran picked up 12 bookings in their final eight qualifiers with two of those cautions resulting in a red card in the game at home to South Korea.

Other competitive internationals (most recent first): Iran spent from February 2013 to March of this year involved in the qualifying event to reach next year's Asian Cup in Australia. They negotiated their group with flying colours, topping it with five wins and a draw from their six games.

v Kuwait (home) 3-2 (HT 1-1) Karimi 2, Fudhel OG 61, Ansarifard 90+1

v Lebanon (away) 4-1 (HT 1-0) Sadeghi 39, Dejagah 51, Nekounam 55, Ghoochannejhad 65

v Thailand (away) 3-0 (HT 2-0) Dejagah 28, Ghoochannejhad 42, Jahanbakhsh 90+5

v Thailand (home) 2-1 (HT 0-0) Hosseini 67, Ghoochannejhad 70

v Kuwait (away) 1-1 (HT 1-0) Shojaei 45

v Lebanon (home) 5-0 (HT 2-0) Ghoochannejhad 26, 62, Nekounam 45+1, 61, 80

Build-up (most recent 1st): No wins since qualifying in games against limited opposition hardly inspire confidence in Iran ahead of the tournament.

v Angola (neutral) 1-1 (HT 0-1) Ansarifard 57

v Montenegro (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0 v Belarus (neutral) 0-0 (HT 0-0)

v Guinea (home) 1-2 (HT 0-2) Ghoochannejhad 55


Team verdict: Iran enter the World Cup as underdogs in Group F and it's hard to see anything but an early exit.

It's almost a year since a memorable triumph against South Korea booked their spot in Brazil and since then domestic issues have caused problems.

There was a 119-day gap between their final qualifier and next match with overseas training camps also cancelled to further increase coach Carlos Queiroz's worries.

Iran shouldn't be the victim of a string of heavy defeats but a failure to get anything from their opener against Nigeria would leave a campaign of three losses looking likely. There is 12/5 available for Iran to finish with no points.

Defence was the strength during qualifying and that provides hope. Unfortunately there is a big step up in class for the finals.

There could be an interest in the Iran top goalscorer market. Charlton's Reza Ghoochannejhad scored crucial goals to secure qualification and is 4/1 to lead the team's scoring stakes.

However, you can also get 6/1 for no Iran player to score during the tournament and that's my call as the best bet given a lack of talent in midfield and Ghoochannejhad looking like the only attacking threat.