World Cup 2018 – which teams have qualified, and what are their prospects? [Iran]

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BBC Sport – LONDON, World Cup qualifying is in full swing, and five countries have already booked their places alongside hosts Russia at next summer’s tournament.

Five-time winners Brazil are there, as are Roberto Martinez’s Belgium, the impenetrable Iran, plus Mexico and Japan.

So how did they get there? Who will be their star performers? And who are the coaches who masterminded their qualification?

BBC Sport finds out.

ASIA: Iran

Prospects: They may head to Russia as relative minnows, but Iran could cause a few upsets in the group stage. Carlos Queiroz’s side have kept 12 successive clean sheets in qualifying – that’s more than 18 hours without conceding a goal in a run that began with a 6-0 win over Guam during Asia’s second qualifying round in November 2015.

Well-organised and evidently extremely difficult to break down, Iran have reached a second successive World Cup under the guidance of former Manchester United assistant manager Queiroz.

Pedigree: This is the fifth time Iran have qualified for a World Cup, but their only victory in the tournament remains a 2-1 win over the United States at France ’98.

Key player:
Part of that formidable Iran defence, right-back Ramin Rezaeian also has the pace and crossing ability to be a threat going forward. The 27-year-old plays his club football for Belgian top-flight side Oostende.

Premier League players: None

Who’s the boss? Carlos Queiroz has a CV to rival any manager in international football. Via Sporting Lisbon, South Africa, Real Madrid, Sir Alex Ferguson’s assistant at Manchester United and two stints in charge of Portugal, it is with Iran that Queiroz has spent the past six years.

“They fight for their lives, they fight for history, they fight for their reputations,” said the Portuguese, having seen Iran become the highest-placed Asian side in Fifa’s rankings at 24th.

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