By Niloufar Momeni
With only seven months left to 2018 World Cup, Iran national team is set to play two friendly games in mid-November.
Having played against Russia and Togo previously, securing a draw and a victory respectively, Team Melli is looking for more challenge in the upcoming friendly games.
Persian Lions’ Portuguese mastermind, Carlos Queiroz, has managed to lead the team to the second World Cup qualification in a row, and even more impressive, they were the first Asian team to qualify for 2018 games.
He has in fact recently criticized Iran Football Federation for lack of funding and determination to secure top friendly games for the team.
Despite the challenges, Iran is lined up to play Central American side Panama on November 9th in Austria, and South American side Venezuela on November 13th in Netherlands.
Panama National team managed to qualify for 2018 World Cup for the first time in their history, at the expense of USA team in their CONCACAF group.
Venezuela though did not qualify for World Cup 2018 games, finishing at the bottom of the standing in their group with the likes of Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and Colombia securing their spots instead.
Carlos Queiroz has called up 26 players to the camp in Austria. Amongst the surprises were calling up the youngster Amir Abedzadeh (currently plying his trade at Portuguese side Maritimo) as one of goalkeeping options while dropping Alireza Haghighi.
Iran’s captain Masoud Shojaei has not been called up again, following his decision to ignore Iranian government’s ban on playing against Israeli teams, and playing against Maccabi Tel Aviv FC for his club side Panionios.
Eleven players of the 26-man squad ply their trade outside Iran, majority of whom in Europe and also one at the Qatari league.
Iran’s 26-men squad is as follows:
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh(Maritimo, Portugal)
Defenders: Rouzbeh Cheshmi(Esteghlal), Jalal Hosseini (Persepolis), Milad Mohammadi(Akhmet Grozny, Russia), Morteza Pouraliganji(Al-Sadd, Qatar), Vouria Ghafouri (Esteghlal), Saeid Aghaei (Sepahan), Ramin Rezaeian(Oostende, Belgium)
Midfielders: Akbar Imani (Padideh), Ashkan Dejagah, Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ali Karimi (Sepahan), Ahmad Abdollahzadeh (Foolad), Mehdi Torabi(Saipa), Saeid Ezzatollahi(Amkar, Russia), Saman Ghoddos(Ostersund, Sweden)
Ehsan Hajsafi(Panionios, Greece), Alireza Jahanbakhsh(AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands)
Forwards: Mehdi Taremi (Persepolis), Sardar Azmoun(Rubin Kazan, Russia), Kaveh Rezaei(Charleroi, Belgium), Karim Ansarifard(Olympiacos, Greece), Reza Ghoochannejhad(Heernenveen, Netherlands)