Iran national football team
Iran National Football Team

World Cup Participation

1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018



Team Information

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 against Afghanistan.

From 1968-1976, Iran won three consecutive AFC Asian Cups, their only three major trophies to date. Iran hosted the event in 1968 with 4-0 and Homayoun Behzadi was joint-top scorer. Hossein Kalani scored the winning goal against South Korea 4 years later in the final, as top scorer. 

First World Cup Appearance

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. The 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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A First World Cup Qualification After 20 Years

After a third place finish at the 1996 AFC Asian Cup, things were looking up for Team Melli, since they qualified for their first World Cup in 20 years in 1998. They squeaked by Australia in a World Cup Qualifying playoff to clinch a berth at France ‘98. Later, the Iran national football team lost 1-0 to Yugoslavia on a free kick in their World Cup ‘98 opener. 

Their second match was their first match won at a World Cup, defeating the USA 2-1. Hamid Estili’s opening goal was particularly memorable for his passionate celebration: 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 against 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 against 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

Iran’s best performance in a World Cup came in 2018, as they amassed four points with a win over Morocco and a draw against Portugal. They narrowly missed out on their first knockout stage berth due to a 1-0 loss against 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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