Iran manager Dragan Skocic called up 26 players for the upcoming double-header in Group A of the 2022 World Cup Asian qualifiers.
Skocic’s men will resume their quest for a place in the global showpiece in Qatar on Thursday, when they play away to Bert van Marwijk’s UAE at the Al Wasl Stadium in Dubai.
Iran will then square off against South Korea at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on October 12, in a match that could see a limited number of Iranian fans return to the venue after a nearly 19-month prohibition due to the coronavirus restrictions.
The good news for the Croatian head coach is the return of first-choice skipper Ehsan Hajsafi after the AEK Athens midfielder missed the first two matches in the group in September through injury.
New Esteghlal signings Ja’far Salmani and Zobeir Niknafs, as well as Sepahan midfielder Mohammad Karimi were left out of the squad, making way for striker Kaveh Rezaei, who plays for Belgian club Oud-Heverlee Leuven, and Kayserispor center-back Majid Hosseini.
Iran sits atop the group with six points, followed by South Korea and the UAE on four and two points respectively, with Syria, Lebanon, and Iraq also in the group.
Seeking a third successive participation in the World Cup finals, Iran edged past Syria at home, courtesy of a single goal by Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
The Feyenoord midfielder was again on the score sheet, alongside Mehdi Taremi and Ali Qolizadeh, as the Asian powerhouse beat Iraq 3-0 in Doha, Qatar.
The top two of each group will seal a place in the finals in November next year.
The winner of a playoff tie between the two third-placed teams will advance to the intercontinental playoff.
Australia and Saudi Arabia lead Group B, which also features Oman, Japan, Vietnam, and China.
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 (AEK Athens), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Omid Nourafkan (Sepahan), Sadeq Moharami (Dinamo Zagreb), Saleh Hardani (Foolad Khuzestan), Siavash Yazdani (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens), Milad Sarlak (Persepolis), Ahmad Nourollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Yassin Salmani (Sepahan), 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), Kaveh Rezaei (OH Leuven)