Already one of Asia's heavyweights in the 11-a-side game, Iran are slowly but surely establishing themselves as a continental power on the beach soccer circuit. Including Ravenna/Italy 2011, the Iranians have earned their place at four of the sport’s global finals. In their three previous outings Team Melli failed make it past the first stage despite some commendable displays, the pick of which came in the group stage at Rio 2007 with a giant-killing victory over favourites Spain.
Behzad Dadashzadeh and his charges booked their berth in Italy by finishing third in the AFC Asian Beach Soccer Championship 2011, held in Oman from 27 February to 4 March. Team Melli took the tournament by the scruff of the neck, winning all of their games up to the semi-finals where it took a penalty shoot-out defeat against hosts Oman to derail their title push. The Iranians gained some consolation with a third-place play-off victory over United Arab Emirates, and of course a ticket to the world finals in Ravenna.
As they have already proved in previous editions of the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup, Iran are combative, difficult to break down and capable of humbling even the strongest sides. While their dream is to confound the pundits by sailing into the last eight, a more immediate target would be to put on a good show with at least one victory to their names.
Hamed Ghorbanpour Davisaraye, Mohammad Ahmadzadeh
Mohammad Ahmadzadeh, Farid Boloukbashi
Iran finished third in the Asian championship with 23 goals scored, their all-time best haul at the event.
The numbers game
4 - The number of times Iran have qualified for the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.