Iran Syria 2024

Iran has always been a powerhouse in Asian football, and their performances in the AFC Asian Cup over the past decade have been a testament to this. As the third most successful team in the history of the tournament, Team Melli has always entered as one of the key contenders for the title. However, this year may well represent their best chance at glory since winning the tournament three consecutive times in 1968, 1972, and 1976. 

That's because, in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, the Iranians very nearly made it into the last 16 of the tournament. A shock - but deserved - 2-0 victory against Wales in their second group game meant that all they had to do was avoid defeat to the US to progress. Ultimately, they couldn't manage it, but it wasn't for lack of trying. 

Iran has already bested Palestine in their opening game at the Asian Cup and they'll be aiming to leave the tournament victorious. But how have they performed in recent editions of the event?  

2019 - Third Place

This year, soccer betting sites have earmarked Iran as one of the favorites to lift the trophy alongside the likes of Japan and South Korea.

Four years ago, in Russia 2018, they had the same billing as they entered the tournament with a win against Morocco and a draw against Portugal under their belt. Led by head coach Carlos Queiroz, who had been at the helm since 2011, Iran started the tournament in dominant fashion and won all three group-stage matches - they kept three clean sheets in the process. 

In the round of 16, they faced Oman, and despite a lackluster performance, they managed to secure a narrow 2-0 win. They then faced China, a team that had impressed in their own group after investing heavily in the sport over the preceding decade, in the quarter-finals. China was dispatched with relative ease and Iran emerged as convincing 3-0 victors. 

It was in the semifinals that Iran's campaign hit a roadblock as they faced Japan, another of the tournament favorites. Despite a valiant effort, Iran lost 3-0 and bowed out of the tournament with their best finish in over 40 years. 

2015 - Quarter-finals

The 2015 edition of the AFC Asian Cup was held in Australia, and Iran was drawn in a group with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, and Qatar. They started the tournament slowly and drew their first two matches before beating the UAE 1-0 in their final group game to qualify for the knockout rounds. 

In the quarter-finals, they faced Iraq, a team that had shockingly won the tournament in 2007. The match was a tense affair, with neither side able to break the deadlock in regulation time. In extra time, Iraq scored a goal that was controversially disallowed for offside, but they eventually won the match after a thrilling 7-6 penalty shoot-out victory. It was a disappointing result for Iran, who had been expected to reach at least the semifinals and who knows where beyond that point. 

This winter, Iran has the perfect opportunity to put things right. But will they pull through?