The Sports Thread #1/2014 FIFA World Cup 2-A Days Team Runthrough #1 For 5/28/14: Queiroz Looks To Get Out Sir Alex's Shadow

30- Iran Team Runthrough 

Photo from TeamTalk

Projected Lineup 


Montazeri- Hosseini - Sadeqi - Belkzadeh 

Heydari - Nekounam - Teymourian - Dejagah 

            Shojaei  -  Ghoochannejhad     


For a man who has led three nations to the last four World Cups, Carlos Queiroz is a manger still known more for being Sir Alex Ferguson's loyal #2. 

Disappointing displays both of his global tournament participants is the reason why Queiroz's most notable accomplishments have come as the legendary Scottish manager's understudy at Manchester United. That label appears that it will continue in Brazil 2014 for the former South Africa and Portugal manager despite a qualifying campaign that saw them finish ahead of South Korea to top their group. 

In fact, they swept both home and away ties with the 2002 World Cup semifinalists and represented a team that has truly brought into Queiroz's principles. Vital in that comfort with the Portuguese tactician is team captain and all around midfield ace Jevad Nekounam. As most know about the Iranian leader, Nekounam's accomplished career at Osasuna made him among La Liga's most underrated players in the last decade. A box to box midfield ace who is more adapt on the offensive end, Nekounam at 33 is still the soul of the Persian princes' outfit. Only the legend Ali Dali ranks ahead of him in the list of Iran's greatest players ever, as he is set to receive his 140th cap for his national before their first group match against Nigeria on June 16th. 

Nekounam has a long term synergy with fellow midfield talent Masoud Shojaei from the time they spent in Pamplona. Despite being a sub for most of his career with Osasuna, Shojaei had his own standout moments with the club, including this fine winning goal he scored against Levante. Now with Liga Adelante side Las Palmas, Shojaei is not to be overlooked as most give deserved attention to Nekounam. 

But a player who will be more vital for Iran than even Shojaei and even the great Nekounam is Fulham winger Ashkan Dejagah. The converted German-Iranian was one of the few bright spots on Fulham's relegated campaign and will be the team's key attacking threat from outside. He will hope that any chance he creates with his notable pace can be finished off by Reza Ghoochannejhad, the Charlton Athletic man who scored the winner in Seoul that saw his country earn another World Cup finals spot. 

Ghoochannejhad has struggled since, scoring only one goal for Championship side since his move in January from Standard Liege, forcing Queiroz to further ponder if his forward can covert any of the small chances his side will receive. Ghoochannejhad may not be threatened for his starting spot by globally limited Karim Ansarifard, but Rubin Kazan's adolescence Sardar Azmoun could get a look after impressing throughout his early days in the SOFGAZ Championship. There's a firm reason why the 19-year-old is getting looked at by some of Europe's biggest clubs. 

Along with Azmoun, another youngster who could lighten up his country's dim prospects is NEC energetic talent Ailreza Jahanbakhsh, who saved his new club from Eredivisie relegation with a top class two goal performance in a 2-2 draw vs Ajax early this month. At 20, Jahanbakhsh still has plenty of inconsistent moments (not tracking back on defense, not being as sharp with his final passes as a winger is required to be) where he isn't a regular starter yet for his club side. But the talent is there and it would be a shame if Queiroz doesn't give him a chance. 

Despite an organized side that was hard to score on in AFC qualifying, Iran still sought the additions of players from other backgrounds for their roster. Eintract Braunschweig's German keeper Daniel Davari and MLS solid rightback Steven Beitashour of California came into the side last fall for an Asian Cup qualifier against Thailand, but neither look set to start with Rahman Ahmadi and Khosro Heydari ahead of them. 

With Nekounam, Shojaei and Andranik Teymourian, Iran have a presence in the midfield. However, Queiroz doesn't have enough up front to expose his competent but mediocre defenders to an aggressive style. He may play a 4-4-2 or a 4-4-1-1 with Shojaei pushed up with Ghoochannejhad, as was the case in their scoreless draw against Montenegro yesterday. But it likely, as their encounters against Korea and notable good teams show, will be almost all 11 playing behind the ball for Iran at the World Cup as Queiroz hopes Dejagah's pace can create a counterattack opportunity. 

But if that doesn't happen, then Queiroz's peripatetic career will still take a backseat to being Sir Alex's sidekick.

Under The Radar, Important Players

Jahanbakhsh and Azmoun will hope to get a chance, but the centerbacks will be key as Hosseini and Sadeqi will have to be even more solid than they were in qualifying to give Iran a chance to advance.  
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