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Iran announce provisional World Cup squad

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Iran announce 24-man provisional squad for 2018 World Cup in Russia

The ESPN FC panel break down Group B where they feel Portugal and Spain are favourites over Morocco and Iran.

TEHRAN, Iran -- Jalal Hosseini and Vouria Ghafouri have both been left off Iran's provisional 24-man squad for the World Cup.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz did not say why Hosseini, a defender for domestic champions Persepolis, and Ghafouri, a Esteghlal FC right-back, were not included.

There was space for midfielders Masoud Shojaei and Ehsan Hajsafi, however. Both played with Greek club Panionios against Israeli side Maccabi Tel Aviv in August 2017. Iran does not recognize Israel and its supreme...

 By John Duerden

World Cup bolters: Daniel Arzani, Lee Seung-woo, Steven Beitashour earn surprise call-ups

Can Australia make an impact at Russia 2018 under new coach Bert van Marwijk? Here's a look at how the Socceroos shape up.
The ESPN panel in London are skeptical of Australia ahead of the World Cup with Bert van Marwijk's defensive mindset and an aging squad.
Ian Darke leads the ESPN panel in predicting the 2018 World Cup winner with names of Germany, Brazil, France and England among the list.

Three of Asia's five 2018 World Cup representatives chose to name preliminary squads on or before the May 14 deadline.

All three nations were forced to make tough decisions, with newly appointed coaches Bert van Marwijk and Shin Tae-yong particularly determined to make their mark on their respective squads.

Here are the three surprise inclusions in each of the early lists:

Australia: Daniel Arzani

Van Marwijk went down the unusual route of naming two preliminary squads. A week after Australia's...

 By John Duerden

Iran need quality from Jahanbakhsh, Azmoun but progress unlikely

Ian Darke leads the ESPN panel in predicting the 2018 World Cup winner with names of Germany, Brazil, France and England among the list.
The ESPN FC panel break down Group B where they feel Portugal and Spain are favourites over Morocco and Iran.

The 2018 World Cup is just over a month away, and all 32 teams are preparing in earnest for their shot at the trophy in Russia. ESPN FC is previewing every team ahead of the opening game on June 14. Find all 32 teams here.

Who they are

Captain: Ashkan Dejagah
Manager: Carlos Queiroz
Nickname: Team Melli
FIFA rank (as of April 12, 2018): 36

How they qualified

The road to Russia could not have been smoother and straighter for Iran, who became the second team (after Brazil) to secure a spot....



 By John Duerden

Iran's World Cup hopes rest on AZ Alkmaar's Alireza Jahanbakhsh

The ESPN FC panel break down Group B where they feel Portugal and Spain are favourites over Morocco and Iran.
From Ligue 1 to the German Cup, check out all the best finishes from across the footballing world this midweek.

It is not often that free-scoring forwards have to step out of the shadow of miserly defenders to take the spotlight, but that is what Alireza Jahanbakhsh will be doing this June.

Iran's defence made all the headlines in Asia during qualification for the 2018 World Cup, conceding just two goals in 10 games in the final group stage of qualification. But Jahanbakhsh is the man who can take Team Melli to a first-ever place in the second round. After all, the 24-year-old is one of the most in-form players...

 By John Duerden

Asia's World Cup preparations: How are Japan, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Australia set?

The FC crew debate the necessity of the March international break, weighing the positives for national team coaches ahead of the World Cup against the risks it poses for club teams.

All five Asian World Cup participants are busy in this international break. ESPN FC takes a look at where they all stand as Russia 2018 comes into view.

JAPAN

Opposition: Mali and Ukraine. After tests against Brazil and Belgium last year, Japan stay in Europe for what should be easier games.

The squad: Keisuke Honda returns for the first time since November while injuries rule out Shinji Kagawa and Premier League due Maya Yoshida and Shinji Okazaki. Yosuke Ideguchi -- the midfielder who scored the...