A qualification for the World Handball Championship is what Iran and its Spanish head coach Manuel Montoya Fernandez are seeking in their campaign at the Asian meet.
The Asian Handball Championship kicks off in Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.
Iran faces Australia in Qatif in their Group B opener, before respectively squaring off against the host and India over the next two days.
Top five teams of the competition will progress to the world event – cohosted by Sweden and Poland in January next year.
With Japan, which stood third at the event in 2020, and two-time runner-up China withdrawing from the competition over coronavirus measures, Iran will fancy its chances of securing a second berth at the world championship.
The first qualification for the country came in 2014 when a best-ever third-place finish in Bahrain handed Iran a place at the world championship the following year in Qatar, where five defeats saw it finish bottom of the group.
Fernandez – appointed to the job last July – has named a new-look 18-man squad for the competition in Saudi Arabia.
Younes Aasari, Mohammadreza Ora’ei, Ehsan Abouei, Mojtaba Heidarpour, Omidreza Sarpoushi, Mohammad Siavashi, Ali Rahimi, Mohammadreza Kazemi, Mohammad Kiani, Yassin Kabirianjou, Kiarash Taheri, Mohammad Gholami, Sajjad Esteki, Pouya Norouzinejad, Seyyed Mehdi Mousavi, Mehrdad Samsami, Afshin Sadeqi, and Hossein Jahani will represent the country at the event.
High-profile overseas players Saeed Heidari-Rad, Seyyed Alireza Mousavi, Mohsen Baba-Safari, Shaou Nosrati, Allah-Karam Esteki, and Saeed Barkhordari were left out of the squad by the Spaniard – due to either injuries or by their own decisions.
Iran’s match against Saudi Arabia on Wednesday will be a second meeting between the two sides in just over two months – after Fernandez’s men beat their opponent 24-16 in a four-team tournament in Qatar, which also included the host country and Kuwait.
Iran was beaten 32-27 by four-time Asian champion Kuwait before falling to a 35-24 defeat against Qatar – the world runner-up in 2015.
Iran also suffered back-to-back friendly defeats during a training camp in Spain earlier this month against Spain (36-22) and Poland (35-29).