The Iranian national football (soccer) team is going into the 2018 FIFA World Cup season with a bang. On November 9, it scored a victory over Panama’s team 2-1, in Graz, Austria.
Iran scored the first goal of the match in the 16th minute with a penalty shootout taken by Ashkan Dejagah. Three minutes later, Saman Ghoddos, forward for the Swedish Ostersunds football club, found the net to double Iran’s lead. Panama’s only goal came in the 39th minute, from the penalty spot, with Panamanian striker Gabriel Torres.
Both teams have already paved their way to the 2018 World Cup, which will be held in the Caspian basin country of Russia next summer, from June 14 – July 15.
The national football team of Iran, known as Team Melli (“national” team) by Iranians, made it through the 2018 World Cup group stage in June, having topped Group D of the Asia Football Confederation with 22 points. There it beat four other teams from Asia, including the Caspian region’s Turkmenistan.
Iran’s national team has qualified five times for the FIFA World Cup – in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 – but has not made it past the group stage. While it ranks 34 in the FIFA global rankings as of October 2017, the team has not won any titles. Its 2-1 victory over the U.S. team at the World Cup played in France in 1998 marks Team Melli’s only win in its 12 games played throughout four FIFA World Cup campaigns.
The team is currently led by Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz, who was legendary Alex Ferguson's assistant manager for the English club Manchester United, from 2004-2008. It has a well-balanced squad comprised of experienced football veterans and talented youngsters. Saman Ghoddos, who scored the second goal against the Panamanian team in Monday’s match, has been described as leading a renaissance of modern Iran football.
The 24-year-old Swedish-born athlete has scored 18 goals in 50 league games in Sweden over the past year and a half for his club Ostersunds FK. Ghoddos joined Team Melli recently and played in two games against the teams of Togo and Russia in October of this year.
The English Premier League club’s Fulham and Wolverhampton Wanderers have reportedly started a hunt to bring on Ghoddos, after his eye-catching performance of three goals in nine appearances in the UEFA Europa League this season. If he is recruited, Ghoddos may be joining one of the world’s best leagues by January, according to Iranian media.
“If there is a good bid for both the club and the player, then we will listen. I would not mind $5 million, but we have not set a fee,” Ostersunds Chairman Daniel Kindberg said, Iransportpress reported. The Swedish club is currently holding out a release clause for Ghoddos, said to be around $5.9 million.
Iran will square off against the Venezuelan team in another World Cup preparation game in the Netherlands, on November 13.