Team Melli (The National Team); Shirane Iran (The Iranian Lions); Shahzadehgane Paris (The Prices of Persia)
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1978, 1998 and 2006.
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Ashkan Dejagah (Fulham). The 27-year-old Dejagah represented several German youth national teams but made the one-time switch in 2012 when it became clear that he had no future with his adopted land. As the only Iranian to play regularly in a major league, having spent the last two seasons with Fulham of the English Premier League, the pressure is on the attacking midfielder to engineer the attacks of his birth country.
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Team Melli’s glory days are long since past, interrupted by the 1979 Revolution and the Iran-Iraq War. Despite having a long history with the sport -- Iran played their first recognized international in 1941 -- Iran’s “golden era” was in the 1970s, when they won three Asian Cups from 1968-1976. They were unable to participate in the 1982 qualification process do to the regional unrest; then were disqualified in 1986 when they refused to play on neutral ground. Their three World Cup appearances have all ended the same way: with first-round exits.
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Steven Beitashour probably never expected to play for his parents’ native land, Iran. He was born in California, after all, and while his parents weren’t refugees of the Islamic Revolution, it seemed unimaginable that their son should ever wear the colors of their birth country. That sort of thing simply didn’t happen in the fractious political climate between the countries. Besides, Beitashour was a late-bloomer. At 26, he had built a solid reputation in Major League Soccer as a reliable marauding right back. But in two USA call-ups, he’d never gotten himself on the field. And so he remained eligible to play for whatever country he pleased. Last October, the Iranians swooped in, light on solid foreign-based players as they were. By the end of the calendar year, he already had four caps under his belt for a country he hadn’t been to since he was a little boy. Now Beitashour will appear at the World Cup for his birth country’s long-time political nemesis.
Getty ImagesJeff Vinnick
How they got here
Iran finished top of their group to gain automatic entry. A 1-0 win over South Korea on the road on the final day gave them top slot. Team Melli only lost two games in the final round.
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Their draw was
Difficult. As perhaps the weakest team in the tournament, any draw was going to be tough. And considering, this one – Group F with Argentina, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Nigeria – was fairly forgiving. But Iran still stand no chance against any of these teams.
AFP/Getty ImagesNELSON ALMEIDA
Their round of 16 prospects look
Bleak. In the unimaginable scenario wherein Iran somehow steal a result or two and come second in this group, they would play the winner of Group E, which consists of France, Switzerland, Ecuador and Honduras. That would probably mean a matchup with France. So, yeah. Game over.
AFP/Getty ImagesATTA KENARE
Iran are just happy to be here. Guided by Carlos Querioz and American Dan Gaspar, fans celebrated in the streets at making the trip to Brazil, but they shouldn’t book hotel stays much after the group stage. Star Dejagah is a crafty midfielder who also sums this side up: he has yet to fully make his mark at the highest level, and Team Melli are likely to follow suit.