- Iran qualified for five FIFA men’s tournaments in 2016 and 2017
- They became the first Asian team to reach Russia 2018
- Third-place finishes in Bahamas and Colombia, spectacular wins in India
If you heard that only one nation had qualified for five men’s FIFA tournaments in 2016 and 2017, chances are you would guess it was Brazil, Germany or another of the game’s global superpowers.
In fact, Iran hold that unique and impressive distinction, having reached the senior World Cup as well as FIFA’s U-20 and U-17 finals, and its futsal and beach soccer showpieces. Nor have the Asian giants been satisfied simply with taking part, as FIFA.com discovered.
*2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ *Played 18, lost none. That was the remarkable record that propelled Carlos Queiroz’s Team Melli to Russia 2018, and ensured that they became the first Asian side to qualify. Iran sealed their place with two games to spare and are now looking forward to a fifth World Cup, having previously participated in the 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 editions. Queiroz is not content simply to be joining the party though. "My goal and dream is to get to the knockout stage,” he said. “We should not be satisfied with the first round. We need to be ambitious. We need to think big. We will not go to Russia as tourists."
*FIFA U-17 World Cup India 2017 *Although Iran qualified for India 2017 by reaching the final AFC U-16 Championship, few would have expected the impact they have made thus far. With two games gone, they are already assured of a place in the knockout stages, having beaten Guinea 3-1 and inflicted a stunning 4-0 defeat on Germany. The Germans’ coach, Christian Wuck, praised his side’s conquerors afterwards, saying: “Iran played a great match. They are mentally a very good team."
*FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 *Iran’s U-20 campaign looked set for success too when they opened their campaign in Korea with an impressive 1-0 win over Costa Rica. And while they were ultimately edged out by Portugal and Zambia for a place in the last 16, midfielder Omid Norafkan vowed that the tournament would help prepare them for challenges in the senior ranks. “The level of the experience we’ve got here is not comparable to anything we’ve had," Norafkan said. "This event will greatly assist and help us.”
*FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 *Having qualified for Bahamas 2017 by retaining the Asian title, Iran proceeded to make history by finishing third at the global finals. That represented the highest-ever finish by an Asian side at the Beach Soccer World Cup, with Mexico, Switzerland and Italy all beaten en route to the podium.
*FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 *Another tournament, another bronze medal and another best-ever finish for Iran. Mohammad Nazemalsharie’s side qualified as Asian champions and emerged as one of the tournament’s major success stories, stunning record champions Brazil in the Round of 16 on the way to finishing third.