- Ali Daei – Goals: 109
- Karim Bagheri – Goals: 50
- Sardar Azmoun – Goals: 40
- Javad Nekounam – Goals: 39
- Ali Karimi – Goals: 38
Iran National Football Team History
Early Days, Asian Cup Success
Iran’s Football Federation was created in 1920 but the Iran soccer team didn’t play its first game until 1941. The match finished in a 1-0 win over British India but Team Melli’s first FIFA-sanctioned game was a scoreless draw vs. Afghanistan.
From 1968-1976, Iran won three consecutive AFC Asian Cups which remain their only three major trophies to date. Iran hosted the event in 1968 and they went 4-0 as Homayoun Behzadi was joint-top scorer at the event. Four years later, Hossein Kalani scored the winning goal vs. South Korea in the final and he finished as the top scorer. Defender Ebrahim Ashtiani was named the tournament’s best player.
Iran once again hosted the event in 1976 and once again won all of their games to clinch a third straight trophy. Team Melli improved to a perfect 13-0 in Asian Cup matches and attacking midfielder Ali Parvin was named the tournament’s best player.
With an undefeated record in 1978 World Cup Qualifying, the first Iran World Cup appearance came at Argentina ‘78. Team Melli drew with Scotland 1-1 but lost to both Peru and the Netherlands and finished at the bottom of Group 4.
The 1979 Iranian Revolution had a big impact on the national team. Iran national football team didn’t take part in World Cup qualifiers during the Iraq-Iran war from 1980-88 and had no domestic league until 1989 due to the conflict.
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Iran National Football Team Records
After a third place finish at the 1996 AFC Asian Cup, things were looking up for Team Melli as they qualified for their first World Cup for 20 years in 1998. They squeaked by Australia in a World Cup Qualifying playoff to clinch a berth at France ‘98.
Iran national football team lost 1-0 to Yugoslavia on a free kick in their World Cup ‘98 opener. In their second match, they won their first match at a World Cup by defeating the USA 2-1. Hamid Estili’s opening goal was particularly memorable for his passionate celebration as he scored a powerful looping header over US keeper Kasey Keller. Iran lost to Germany 2-0 in the group finale and finished third in Group F.
Six years later, striker Ali Daei broke the all-time international goals record by scoring his 90th goal vs. Lebanon. Iran finished third in the AFC Asian Cup the same year and became one of the first teams to qualify for the 2006 World Cup. In the process, Daei became the first player to score 100 international goals.
Queiroz and Three Consecutive Qualifications
At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Team Melli lost two matches and drew one. That meant they went out at the Group Stage once again. Iran missed out on the 2010 World Cup but Carlos Queiroz’s 2011 appointment proved to be a good one.
The Portuguese manager led Iran to back-to-back World Cups and masterminded Iran’s first clean sheet in a World Cup vs. Nigeria in 2014. Iran were also minutes away from drawing with Argentina at the same tournament, but a Lionel Messi goal gave La Albiceleste the win.
Iran’s best performance in a World Cup came in 2018 as they amassed four points with a win over Morocco and draw vs. Portugal. They narrowly missed out on their first knockout stage berth due to a 1-0 loss vs. Spain.
Iran national football team picked up the most points of any team in the third round of 2022 AFC World Cup Qualifying under coach Dragan Skocic. That meant Team Melli sealed qualification to a third consecutive FIFA World Cup for the first time in team history.
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