Croatian head coach Dragan Skocic announced Iran’s 27-man squad for the upcoming World Cup Asian qualifiers in Group A.
A double header at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium will see Iran host Iraq on Thursday before squaring off against the UAE on February 1.
Iran sits atop the group with 16 points with four games to spare – two more than second-placed South Korea, and, more significantly, 10 points clear of the UAE in third.
With the top two of the two groups directly qualifying for the 2022 World Cup finals, three more points will be enough for Skocic’s men to secure their place in the showpiece – starting Nov. 21 – in Qatar.
Persepolis midfielder Kamal Kamyabinia was a late addition to the squad after Shabab Al Ahli’s Ahmad Nourollahi tested positive for COVID-19 and will miss the two games.
There could be further changes to the list as some reports suggested Zenit St. Petersburg’s Sardar Azmoun might have been diagnosed with the coronavirus, though the Football Federation of Iran has yet to confirm the rumors.
Porto striker Mehdi Taremi was recalled for action after being omitted for the previous two games over a falling-out with Skocic, while Hossein Kan’anizadegan was also named in the squad despite several reports suggesting in recent weeks that the Doha-based Al Ahli center back might be left out for the two fixtures due to disciplinary measures.
Shahab Zahedi also received a first call-up for international duty after a decent campaign with Ukrainian club Zorya Lugansk, which has seen the 26-year-old bag 10 goals in 24 outings across all competitions.
The Croatian manager also named five players – Tractor keeper Mohammadreza Akhbari, Danial Esmaeilifar and Soroush Rafiei of Sepahan, and Esteghlal’s Zobeir Niknafs and Aref Aqasi – in a reserves list which could be added to the squad in case of emergency.
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), Omid Nourafkan (Sepahan), Sadeq Moharami (Dinamo Zagreb), Saleh Hardani (Foolad Khuzestan), Siavash Yazdani (Esteghlal), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor)
Midfielders: Saeid Ezzatollahi (Al Gharafa), Milad Sarlak (Persepolis), Kamal Kamyabinia (Persepolis), Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), 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), Allahyar Sayyadmanesh (Fenerbahce), Shahab Zahedi (Zorya Lugansk), Kaveh Rezaei (OH Leuven)