Iran head coach Dragan Skocic named 27 players for the upcoming fixtures at the final group phase of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers.
The Asian powerhouse will resume its quest for a place at next year’s finals in Qatar with a home tie against Syria on Thursday before playing away to Iraq five days later in Group A, which also features South Korea, the UAE, and Lebanon.
Ten Persian Gulf Pro League players will be joined by 17 overseas teammates for the double fixtures.
The Croatian manager made nine changes to the squad that finished atop the preliminary group of the qualifiers in Bahrain in June.
Esteghlal enjoys the highest number of players – four – in the squad among the Iranian clubs, although three of them are yet to play for the Tehran-based giant as they joined the Blues this summer.
Sepahan’s 19-year-old prodigy Yassin Salmani and teammate Mohammad Karimi have received a first international call-up.
Skipper Ehsan Hajsafi, meanwhile, will be ruled out of the two games as the new AEK Athens midfielder has been dealing with a hamstring strain.
However, the biggest absentees for the Syrian clash could be Skocic himself, as well as assistant Vahid Hashemian. The two were infected with COVID-19 last week and are yet to test negative for the disease.
Boavista keeper Alireza Beiranvand, Amir Abedzadeh of the Spanish second-tier side Ponferradina, and new Portuguese club Portimonense signing Payam Niazmand, have been called up between the posts.
Iran will also be led up front by four overseas strikers in Sardar Azmoun, Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Taremi, and Mehdi Qayedi, who recently moved to Emirati side Shabab Al Ahli.
Azmoun has started the new Russian Premier Liga season in dazzling form, scoring five in six outings for Zenit St. Petersburg, while Taremi also got off the mark for the Portuguese giant Porto in the new campaign on Saturday, scoring during a 3-0 league victory over Arouca.
Meanwhile, midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, on return to the international duty, will hope to build on the new life at Feyenoord, which has seen him bag three goals in seven appearances for the Dutch club.
The group fixtures will finish on March 29 next year, with the top two of each group sealing a place in the final showpiece in November next year.
Japan, Australia, Saudi Arabia, China, Oman, and Vietnam are pitted in Group B.
The winner of a playoff tie between the two third-placed teams will advance to the intercontinental playoff.
The following is the full Iranian squad:
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Boavista), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina), Payam Niazmand (Portimonense)
Defenders: Shoja Khalilzadeh (Al Rayyan), Hossein Kan’anizadegan (Al Ahli), Milad Mohammadi (-), Omid Nourafkan (Sepahan), Sadeq Moharami (Dinamo Zagreb), Ja’far Salmani (Esteghlal), Saleh Hardani (Foolad Khuzestan), Siavash Yazdani (Esteghlal), Aref Aqasi (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Milad Sarlak (Persepolis), Ahmad Nourollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Mohammad Karimi (Sepahan), Yassin Salmani (Sepahan), Zobeir Niknafs (Esteghlal), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Saeid Ezzatollahi (Vejle BK), Ali Qolizadeh (Charleroi), Saman Qoddous (Brentford), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis)
Strikers: Sardar Azmoun (Zenit St. Petersburg), Mehdi Taremi (Porto), Karim Ansarifard (AEK Athens), Mehdi Qayedi (Shabab Al Ahli)