This will be the Iranians’ third appearance at the FIFA U-17 World Cup, following on from Trinidad and Tobago 2001 and Nigeria 2009. While in 2001 they suffered three defeats in a row, finishing last in Group D, their experience eight years later was significantly more positive. On African soil, wins over Gambia and the Netherlands and a draw with Colombia saw them top Group C and qualify for the Round of 16, where they lost 2-1 to Uruguay.
Despite their strong display in 2009, Iran failed to qualify for Mexico 2011, having been eliminated from the AFC U-16 Championship at the group phase. The most recent continental contest – held on home soil – in 2012 was a different story, however, as the young Team Melli cruised through their pool, beating Kuwait, Laos and Yemen. A 5-1 triumph over Australia in the last eight saw them obtain their ticket for UAE 2013 in style, but they were unable to maintain that momentum, suffering a 3-2 semi-final defeat to eventual winners Uzbekistan.
The most recent AFC U-16 Championship provided Iran’s young players with a chance to demonstrate their talent. Majid Hosseini and Amir Mohammad Mazloum clearly relished the opportunity, scoring three goals each at the tournament, while Saied Ezzatollahi hit the back of the net on two occasions. Coach Ali Doustimehr, who was also in charge at Nigeria 2009, has indicated that he will form his squad from a mix of established players and new recruits. The experienced tactician is looking forward to leading his charges at the FIFA U-17 World Cup once again, saying: “This qualification has been a great gift for the Iranian people. In order to achieve our U-17 World Cup objectives, we need to prepare well and pit ourselves against strong teams."