Trend - Tomorrow the 2018 World Cup draw is taking place in Moscow. Five teams will represent Asian Football Confederation (AFC), amongst them Iran and Saudi Arabia national teams.
Whereas political tensions in the Middle East are getting heightened day by day, those teams are preparing themselves to perform as best as they can, trying to make the world’s football fans happy and to give a piece of glory to their nations.
Depending on FIFA world rankings as of November 23, 2017, Iran, which is ranked 32, goes to Pot 3, while Saudi Arabia, ranking 64, goes to Pot 4. As both represent the same confederation, AFC, they will be seeded in different groups and will not face each other until qualifying for the next round. Being familiar with the strength of both teams you can say they will fail to go through the group round and will never meet, but who knows.
If, nevertheless, they come face-to-face, what kind of matchup could it be? Life or death fight? Fair play? One thing is a hundred percent definite – at least the entire Middle East will watch this thriller.
Each country has its football history.
For the time being, the Iran national football team (Team Melli or sometimes Princes of Persia) is the highest-ranking one in Asia. Except for the forthcoming much awaited Russian rally, it qualified for the World Cup finals four times – in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014. The team has never gone through the group stage having played 12 games, winning in only one of them, making three draws, and losing in eight matches. The team’s current coach is Carlos Queiroz.
The Saudi Arabia national football team (Green Falcons or Sons of Desert) qualified for the World Cup finals four times too – in 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006. The team’s biggest achievement fell on 1994 when it managed to reach knockout stage for Round of 16. At the rest of the tournaments it failed to pass through the group stage. The Falcons played 13 games, winning in two of them, making two draws, and losing in nine matches. Juan Antonio Pizzi is the Falcons’ coach.
Beginning from 1975, Iran and Saudi Arabia have faced each other in 16 games, each winning in six of them (including two wins on post-match penalties), with 4 draws. They faced nine times when qualifying for World Cup, each gaining three wins and making draws in the remaining three matches, but they have never happened to meet head-to-head on football field at World Cup final tournaments.
Iranian and Saudi leaderships are considered bitter enemies in the Middle East with their political rivalry leaving no place for compromise. But no one can say the same about their peoples.
At the forthcoming 2018 World Cup there is a good chance for the two armies’ friendly contacts regardless of victory or defeat. That will be the armies of football fans, not the regular armies. I wish success to both teams.
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