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Now, to begin with, Iran's 2022 FIFA World Cup campaign gets underway against England on Monday in a challenging Group B matchup. They will face adversity. That much cannot be disputed. They shouldn't, however, be afraid of their opponents going into the match.
In any case, Team Melli has never entered a competition believing they have no chance of winning. Just consider the 2018 World Cup as an example. Few people outside of Asia also anticipated that they would only fill in the numbers.
However, after defeating Morocco 2-1 in their Group B debut, they then suffered a stinging 1-0 defeat to Spain, setting up a pivotal group stage showdown with another powerhouse Portugal.
Nobody gave them a chance to win the game, but they managed to come from behind to force a draw with a last-second penalty. They even missed a crucial chance to pull off a stunning victory that would have guaranteed progression to the knockout round.
The nucleus of the team, which included stars like Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi, Alireza Beiranvand, and Saeid Ezatolahi, might possibly be a golden generation for Team Melli as a result of their outstanding performances at that tournament. Four years later, those athletes have only improved, and more have followed in their footsteps. Of Iran's 25-man World Cup roster, 13 are currently making their living in Europe.
Jahanbakhsh, Taremi, and Azmoun, for example, are all at the height of their abilities, and there is growing optimism that this is not only the moment for the Iranians to make history by making it to the World Cup's knockout round for the first time ever, but also that this may be their best chance ever.
Therefore, there is no need for Iran to fear England. Respect? Of course. But England will also need to treat Iran with respect; otherwise, they risk receiving an unpleasant surprise.
The England will undoubtedly be more exposed than normal, especially on the right side of defense, where Jahanbakhsh might be given carte blanche to run amok down that wing due to injuries to a few first-team players.
Much in the center, John Stones and Harry Maguire are not the two center backs who inspire the most confidence because they are both constantly on the verge of making a costly mistake, the latter even more so.
The Porto star Taremi and the Leverkusen player Azmoun, if he is deemed fit, should be anticipating the match rather than fearing it. Of course, England has its own advantages that will put the Iranians to the test.
The Three Lions have one of the best attackers in the world in Harry Kane, and players like Phil Foden, Raheem Sterling, Jack Grealish, and Marcus Rashford all have the ability to win a game on their own.
England should win it if both sides play to the best of their abilities; after all, they are the favorites for a reason.