Monday, May 01, 2006

World Cup Spotlight: Iran

Now that we’re almost a month away from the 2006 World Cup in Germany, we here at a pretty move thought we’d toss our opinions (yeah, we realize where most of ‘em will be tossed) into the footie forum, as we embark on impressionistically deciphering who we like, loathe, and generally haven’t a clue about. We’ll try to say something about each of the 32 teams in competition. And, of course, if anyone out there has anything to argue about or add, consider the flood gates wide open.

I guess I’ll start with Iran, aka Team Melli. Though ranked only 22nd according to the highly debatable FIFA World Rankings, Iran's team is comprised of reliable veterans like striker Ali Daei, midfielders Ali Karimi and Mehdi Mahdavikia (who will eventually take over the skipper duties from Daei when he retires after the competition), and striker Vahid Hashemian, as well as younger players such as defender Hossein Kaebi and forward Javed Kazemian. With the mix of international club players (many of the vets are currently playing or have played for German teams) and home-nurtured talent, Iran is generally considered to be the most formidable national squad in their history. Team Melli has been in the World Cup twice before—in 1978 and 1998, where they beat the USA team 2-1 in the first round though they failed to reach the round of 16—and have won the Asia Cup three times in a row.

Iran will start out the tournament in Group D, which also contains the dangerous Mexican squad led by the bobble-headed Jared Borgetti (a favorite player of mine, by the way) and captain Rafael Marquez (who plays for Barca), the talented yet always underachieving Portuguese team, and cup debutantes Angola, aka the Black Impalas.

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