Iran: Sardar Azmoun
Iran reached a second consecutive World Cup with impressive ease, they went unbeaten through qualifying, finishing seven points clear of runners-up South Korea. Despite reaching an impressive five World Cup finals, and four since 1998, Iran have only won one game at the finals, a 2-1 win over the United States in 1998.
It seems unlikely Iran are going to build on that record in Russia, but, if Carlos Queiroz can get the best out of his key men, Iran might be able to at least add another World Cup win to the record books. A particular danger for the Middle Eastern side is Sardar Azmoun. The 23-year-old currently playsin Russia with Rubin Kazan and has attracted the attention of clubs like Liverpool and Borussia Dortmund due to his performances with his old club, Rostov, who he helped reach a second-place finish in the 2015-16 Russian Premier League and earn a famous 3-2 win over Bayern Munich in that season’s Champions League. Azmoun scored one of the goals and set up another in that famous win.
He has struggled to find that same form back in Russia, mainly being used as a bench player, but his form for Iran is still extremely impressive. He’s scored 22 goals in 30 appearances for Iran as of March 2018. Among those 22 goals, seven came in the qualifiers on the way to Russia. Iran seriously lacked a killer forward in Brazil, scoring just a single goal. In Azmoun, they have a goalscoring machine for his nation and all plans Iran have of upsetting any of the big teams in Russia will likely be decided by how well they use Azmoun.