Monday, December 22, 2014

Iran Greatest All-time 23 member team

Iran 1998

Please also see my All-Time World Cup Team Index

Starting in 1960's, Iran has always been one of the best teams in Asia.  They won three straight Asian Cup between 1968 and 1976.  They also won the Gold Medal at the Asian Games in 1974.  They qualified for the Olympics in 1964, 1972 and 1976.  They qualified for the 1978 World Cup Finals.  They managed to draw Scotland in the group stage.  However, after the Iran Revolution of 1979, Iranian football regressed, largely due to the Iran-Iraq War that stopped Iran for playing internationally.  Iran reentered the international stage in 1990's and coincided with the birth of a Golden Generation of Iranian players.  In 1997, they eliminated Australia in the continental playoff and advanced to France 1998.  Led by Khodadad Azizi, Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia and Karim Bagheri, Iran fielded probably the best ever team at the World Cup Finals.  They beat the United States in the second match of Group stage, earning their first ever World Cup victory.  And because of the political difference between the two countries, the match was viewed as the most political charged match of the tournament.  However, both teams conducted themselves in a friendly manner before and after the game, and were rewarded with the Fair Play Award.  After 1998, a large number of Iranian players went to play and found successes overseas.  Team Melli went on to qualify for the World Cup Finals in 2006 and 2010.  

This is my selection of a 23-member all-time team for Iran.  Iranian players were also included on my all-team for West Asia.
World Cup Finals 1978

GK: Naser Hejazi
Naser Hejazi was considered as one of the best goalkeepers in the history of Asia.  He won the Asian Cup on two occasions in 1972 and 1976, and Asian Games title once, and competed in the 1972 Munich Olympics and 1976 Montreal Olympics and 1978 FIFA World Cup. He had 62 caps between 1968 and 1980. . He was forced to retire from the national team to age restriction imposed in the 1980's. He won the Asian Club Championship in 1970 with Taj Tehran.
Naser Hejazi
GK: Ahmadreza Abedzadeh
Ahmadreza Abedzadeh played for Esteghlal, Sepahan and  Persepolis.  He was capped 79 times and was the starting keeper at France 1998.  He missed the first match against Yugoslavia, but he captained two remaining matches.  He won the Gold medal in the 1990 Asian Games, where he saved two penalties in the Final against North Korea. 

GK: Hossein Ali Khan-Sardar
He played his club football in Belgium whilst studying. In 1919 he returned to Iran,  but in 1920, he joined Switzerland's Servette Geneva where he played professional football. Upon his return from Europe he played for Toofan FC in Tehran.  He played in an era before the creation of an Iranian national team.  He had represented Tehran on a tour of the USSR.  He also appeared in one match for Switzerland.

RB/RM: Mehdi Mahdavikia 
Mehdi Mahdavikia was chosen as the Asian Player of the Year in 2003.  He was a star in Bundesliga while playing for Hamburger SV.  He was chosen as their Player of the Year twice. He also played for played for Persepolis, Eintracht Frankfurt, Steel Azin and Damash Gilan He played in two World Cup Finals, 1998 and 2006 for the Iranian national team.  Mahdavikia was capped 110 times between 1996 and 2009.
Mehdi Mahdavikia
RB: Hossein Kaebi
Hossein Kaebi spent a season with Leicester in England, but never got his chance.  He spent the rest of his career playing for various clubs in Iran. Kaebi won his first cap having just turned 16.  He was capped 89 times. He had 84 caps between 2002 and 2010.  He represented Iran at the 2006 World Cup Finals.

CB: Rahman Rezaei 
Rahman Rezaei spent 7 seasons playing in Italy, six of them were in Serie A.  He spent his best seasons with Messina.  He was probably the most successful Iranian defender playing in Europe. He played 56 times for Iran between 2001 and 2009. He played in the 2006 World Cup Finals, but was criticized by his performance there.

CB: Mostafa Arab
Mostafa Arab made his national debut at the age of 16, the second youngest ever national team player.  He won the Asian Cup in 1968 and 1972.  Arab played for Iran at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.  He played 48 times for Iran.  He was also very educated.  He held six master degrees from universities in the USA and Iran.   

CB: Hassan Habibi
Born in 1939, Hassan Habibi was a long-time captain of Iranian national team that went to the 1964 Summer Olympics and won the Asian Cup in 1968. He first played his club football with Shahin FC and Taj SC. In 1964, he joined PAS Tehran and played there until 1971 and PAS Tehran.

CB: Ebrahim Ashtiani
Ashtiani won the Asian Cup in Thailand in 1972 as well as the football tournament of the 1974 Asian Games in Tehran. He made 35 appearances for the Iran national football team from 1969 to 1974 and was part of the Iranian team competing in the football tournament of the Olympics in Munich 1972.  He started his career with Shahin in Iran, but pent most of his careers at Persepolis. 
Ebrahim Ashtiani
LB: Mojtaba Moharrami
Mojtaba Moharrami was banned twice in football after a brawl in an Iranian league match and a fight with a referee during an Asian Cup game.  He was, however, a fan favorite in Iran and for his club team Persepolis.  He won a Gold Medal at the Asian Games in 1990 and then, an AFC Cup Winners' Cup in 1990-1991.
Andranik Eskandarian is probably the most famous Iranian player in the world during the 1970's because he played with Pele in NY Cosmos.  He was a sweeper, but played both rightback and leftback for NY Cosmos.  For the national team, he won the Asian Cup in 1976 and went to the 1978 World Cup Finals. His son played for the USA.

DM: Hamid Estili
Hamid Estili played for many clubs such as Al Qadisiya Kuwait, Bahman, Esteghlal Jonoub, Geylang United and Pas, but his best years were spent at Persepolis.  He was capped 82 times between 1992 and 2000.  He scored one of the historical goals that beat the USA at World Cup Finals in 1998.

CM: Karim Bagheri 
Karim Bagheri was a star of Iran during the late 1990's.  He played for Arminia Bielefeld in Germany and Charlton Atletic in England. He played over half of his professional career for Persepolis in the Iran Pro League.   He played 87 times for Iran.  He was remembered for sparking the comeback win against Australia that led to Iran's qualification for the World Cup Finals in 1998. 
Karim Bagheri
DM: Javad Nekounam
Javad Nekounam capped over 150 times for Iran and was their captain. He went to the WC Finals in 2010 and 2014. He spent most of his professional career with Pas and Spain's Osasuna, appearing in 197 official games and scoring 31 goals during his two spells with the latter and also being team captain. He also competed in the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, during 18 seasons overall.

AM: Khodadad Azizi
Khodadad Azziz was a star in the 1990's, playing along side with Ali Daei. He represented Iran at the 1996 Asian Cup, 1998 FIFA World Cup, and the 2000 Asian Cup. He was named Asian Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the Asian Cup Most Valuable Player in the 1996 Asian Cup. Having played for three seasons in 1. FC Köln, he joined San Jose Earthquakes. He also played for UAE club Al Nasr, Pas Tehran and Admira of the Austrian Bundesliga. He is of Hazara ethnicity.
Khodadad Azizi
AM: Ali Karimi 
Ali Karimi was Asia Player of the year in 2004.  He has played for Fath Tehran, Persepolis, Al-Ahli Dubai, Qatar SC, Steel Azin, Schalke 04 and Tractor Sazi. He spent two seasons with Bayern Munich, winning the League/Cup Double in 2005/2006.  He was capped 127 times for Iran, appearing at five major tournaments.  Iran captured Gold at the 1998 Asian Games. He played in the 2006 World Cup Finals.
Ali Karimi
AM: Ali Parvin
Ali Parvin was considered the greatest Iranian player of all-time.  He played 78 times for Iran between 1970 and 1980. He won two Asian Cups in the 1970's and qualified for the World Cup Finals in 1978.  He also played in the Summer Olympics in 1972 and 1976.  He spent 18 seasons with Persepolis in Iran. He was selected as one of the seventeen Asian football elites by AFC and received a statue from this confederation.
Ali Parvin
FW: Mohammad Reza Adelkhan
Mohammad Reza Adelkhan was discovered by Bayern Munich while playing a friendly match for in Turkey. In 1962, he joined Bayern Munich II.  He also played for SG Wattenscheid 09, Wuppertaler SV, Rot-Weiß Oberhausen and VfL Klafeld-Geisweid before moving back to Iran. He earned 17 caps and helped Team Melli to win the 1974 Asian Games.

ST: Gholam Hossein Mazloumi
He was a star players in the 1970's.  During his time as a football player, he scored 37 goals for the Iran national football team and was Iran's all-time top scorer for twelve years before his record being broken by Ali Daei.  He was the top scorer at the 1974 Asian Games and the 1976 AFC Asian Cup.He won two Asian Cups(1972, 1976) and one Asian Games Gold Medal(1974).  He went to the Olympics in 1976 where Iran reached the quaterfinal.

ST: Ali Daei
Ali Daei was capped 149 times for Team Melli. He is the world's all-time leading goalscorer in men's international matches with 109 goals.  He was considered one of the most successful Iranians playing in Europe.  He spent 5 seasons in the Bundesliga.  While playing for Hertha Berlin, he scored two goals against Chelsea in the Champions' League in 1999 which was considered one of the epic matches of the tournament. 
Ali Daei
ST: Boyuk Jeddikar
In 1957, Boyuk Jeddikar was transferred to Viktoria 89 Berlin on a three-year contract with a 1500 Deutschmarks a month salary, however his time in Germany was shortened when his father died, so after only 9 months Jeddikar returned to Iran to resume his career with Taj SC (currently Esteghlal).  He was capped 29 times for Iran.

ST: Hassan Rowshan
He won the Asian Games in Tehran in 1974 and Asian Cup 1976 in Tehran as well as reaching the quarterfinals of the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal.  He was the star player as Iran qualified for the WC Finals in 1978, but an injury limited his playing time in the Finals.  He started his career with Taj Tehran(Esteghlal F.C.) .  After the WC Finals in 1978, he went to play club football  in UAE.

Vahid Hashemian is known for playing in Bundesliga between 1999 and 2010.  He mainly played for Bochum.  He also had a brief stint with Hamburger and Bayern Munich.  From 2005 to 2008, he played Hanover 96.  He only had 50 caps, largely because he refused to play for Iran for a while. He went to the World Cup Finals in 2006, but he retired from international football during the 2010 World Cup Qualifiers in 2009.
Vahid Hashemian
Honorable Mention
Ashkan Dejagah, Jalal Hosseini, Mehdi Rahmati, Ghafour Jahani, Javad Zarincheh, Sirous Ghayeghran, Parviz Ghelichkhani, Homayoun Behzadi, Masoud Boroumand, Hossein Sadaghiani, Farshad Pious, Ashkan Dejagah, Mohammad Khakpour, Parviz Koozehkanani, Hossein-Ali Khan Sardar, Ahmad-Ali Khan Sardar, Khan Khanan and Masoud Boroumand.

Squad Explanation 
-- Ali Parvin and Ali Daei are my automatic selection. I considered them to be Iran's greatest ever players.  No detail is needed to explain their inclusion.
-- Ali Karimi, Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi and Mehdi Mahdavikia won Asian Player of the Year.
-- Iran has successes from the 1960's onward.  My team has a good balance of players from different eras.  
-- The 1998 World Cup Finals in France is not Iran's first World Cup Finals, but it was probably their greatest ever team.  In the Group Stage, they beat the USA 2-1, which was a historical victory.  Khodadad Azizi, Ali Daei, Mehdi Mahdavikia, Hamid Estili and Karim Bagheri are selected into this all-time team.
-- Iran first qualified for the 1978 World Cup Finals.  I have three players selected from that team: Ali Parvin, Hassan Rowshan and Andranik Eskandarian.
-- Ali Parvin is sometimes known as Iran's greatest player before the 1990's generation. He is among the greatest ever from the AFC.
-- Andranik Eskandarian was the most famous Iranian player before the 1990's, but it was largely due to the fact that he was playing with Pele in NY Cosmos. He actually does not appear in many all-time list, I found.  I still put him here because playing with Pele had risen the profile of Iranian footballers.  He earned his spot through contributions to the game.
--  Goalkeeper Ebrahim Mirzapour was on my origin team.  Upon further research, I discovered Hossein Ali Khan-Sardar who was an active players roughly 90 years before Mirzapour.  He actually never played for Iran because he played in an era before the creation of the Iranian national team.  He was one of the first Iranian to play abroad and even, played once for the Swiss national team. I also wanted to spread the team across different eras.  So he was selected as the third keeper.
-- Mehdi Mahdavikia who was selected on Hamburger SV Team of the Century kept Javad Zarincheh out of the team.
-- Ali Daei, Khodadad Azizi and Karim Bagheri formed one of best offensive trio in Asian football's history. Bagheri and Daei has wonderful careers in Europe while Azizi did not do as well.  Nevertheless, Azizi was considered the best in Asia during his prime.
-- It is about time that Jalal Hosseini replaced one of the defenders on my team.  He had done enough to earn a merit to the team.
-- I almost dropped Mojtaba Moharrami for his controversial behaviour.  In the end, talent is a terrible to waste and I need an extra defender.  I dropped Mohammad Khakpour, instead.
-- Before I started my research, I never thought Mohammad Khakpour won't make this team.  I saw him in action before and was impressed by his performance.
-- Farshad Pious got overlooked because he played in an era where opportunities were more limited. He won the Gold Medal at the Asian Games. The other Iranians had done well at the bigger stage.
-- Hossein Sadaghiani is the first ever Iranian to play in an European league, but he was on the youth team while studying in Belgium. Instead, I looked into three other Iranian pioneers playing in Europe: Büyük Jeddikar, Parviz Koozehkanani and Mohammad Reza Adelkhan.
-- Büyük Jeddikar was the first ever Iranian signed by an European club to play in football when he joined Tour in 1946 .  He got selected to the all-time team because he broke entry barrier for Iranians.  Before him, Hossein Sadaghiani (Belgium, Turkey and Austria), Hossein-Ali Khan Sardar (Belgium and Switzerland), Ahmad-Ali Khan Sardar (Belgium), Khan Khanan (Belgium) and Masoud Boroumand (United States and Lebanon) were all footballers studying and playing abroad. 
-- Ali Karimi, Ali Daei and Mohammad Reza Adelkhani played for Bayern Munich.  Ali Karimi was probably the most successful.  Al Daei's best stint in Germany was with Hertha Berlin.  Mohammad Reza Adelkhani only spent a short time over there in the 1960's.
-- Parviz Koozehkanani also played in Germany during the 1950's, but I do not have enough space for him.  He only spent a short time there.
-- The 24th player on my list is Ghafour Jahani.

Starting lineup
Formation: 4-2-3-1
Ali Daei is a striker who can hold the ball while I have three great playmakers behind him. The midfield is well-protected. I started Andranik Eskandarian at leftback over Mojtaba Moharrami.

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