If his eye-catching displays during qualification are anything to go by, Reza Ghoochannejhad looks set to shoulder Iran's goal-scoring intentions as his side aim to reach the second round of the FIFA World Cup™ for the first time.
The striker, in a sense, became Iran’s new rescuer during their qualifying campaign. Initially a relative unknown plying his trade in Belgium, he revived Iran's fortunes with his first goal in qualifying during a 1-0 victory in Qatar, before hitting the target again a week later in the 4-0 home defeat of Lebanon. The 26-year-old maintained his form into their final game against Korea Republic, scoring the only goal in Ulsan as they booked their passage to Brazil 2014 as group winners.
Born in Iran but brought up in the Netherlands, Gucci, as he is now affectionately known to fans, was a fresh face on the Asian scene when he was called up by coach Carlos Queiroz in October 2012. Impressed by his performance for Sint-Truiden in a Belgian Jupiler Pro League game against Lierse, the former Portugal and Real Madrid boss wasted no time in calling him up.
Queiroz gave him his international debut in a crucial home qualifier against Korea Republic, starting the forward in what ended as a 1-0 Iran win. Even after a disappointing home defeat to Uzbekistan, a result which put Iran's campaign in jeopardy, Queiroz maintained his faith in Ghoochannejhad. He was eventually proven right, with Gucci scoring three goals in as many games across a fortnight, including two match-winners, as Iran progressed somewhat against the odds.
The decisive goal against the Koreans was the embodiment of Gucci's predatory talents. With Iran largely on the back foot and approaching the final half-hour, the Mashhad-born striker stole the ball from Kim Younggwon, darting to the edge of the penalty area, before unleashing a trademark left-footed strike past the goalkeeper.