Qualified Team Focus - Iran: How far can their stars carry them?
MIES (Switzerland) - The draw for the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023, presented by Wanda, will be held in Manila, Philippines, on April 29. It is now time to meet the 32 teams that try to become World Champions in a few months.
Here is the number 22 team in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike, three-time FIBA Asia Cup champions Iran.
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How did they qualify
After the Tokyo Olympics, where Iran lost all three games to Czech Republic, United States and France, the federation replaced head coach Mehran Shahintab with Mostafa Hashemi. Another coaching change would come after just two windows of the Asian Qualifiers with former national team head coach Saeed Armaghani coming back in May 2022.
Team Melli would qualify for the World Cup on the final game day but did so only with help as Australia beat Kazakhstan. Iran ended up losing lost four of their last five games - and that was a victory by forfeit. But the Iranians had done enough - especially thanks to some massive individual performances.
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The Asian Qualifiers started well with two Group D wins over Bahrain in November 2021. Arsalan Kazemi collected a monster triple-double of 10 points, 26 rebounds and 12 assists in the opening 82-66 win at home. It was just the second-ever triple-double in World Cup Qualifiers and the 26 records set a new World Cup Qualifiers record.
In the second victory - 100-64 on the road - Behnam Yakhchali poured in 22 points and Kazemi flirted with another triple-double with 14 points, 17 rebounds and 6 assists.
Mohammad Jamshidi was the star of the February 2022 window. He scored 32 points at home against Kazakhstan but they were not enough in a 73-69 defeat after losing a 13-point lead in the late third quarter.
Jamshidi stepped it up even more in the second game of the window with 41 points, 6 rebounds and 8 assists in an 80-68 home victory over Syria.
Armaghani replaced Hashemi ahead of the June/July 2022 window but the results were just the same as the previous window. Iran fell to Kazakhstan again - 68-60 on the road - despite the veteran Hamed EHaddadi collecting 18 points, 10 rebounds and 6 blocks.
Iran again bounced back to beat Syria - 91-56 on the road - with EHaddadi tallying 14 points and 15 rebounds.
Iran's major leaders came through in the first game of the August 2022 window with Yakhchali scoring 30 points and Kazemi (12 points, 17 rebounds) and Haddadi (13/10) both picking up double-doubles in a 79-68 home victory over Japan to open Group F play in the Second Round. Iran finished the window with a 98-68 loss in Australia.
Iran had a strong group stage at the FIBA AsiaCup 2022 in July, grabbing wins over Syria, Kazakhstan and Japan, but then lost 91-76 to Jordan in the Quarter-Finals. And Iran were unable to pick up any momentum for the November 2022 window, losing 81-72 at home to China despite Yakhchali scoring 24 points and another EHaddadi double-double (14/11).
Iran were granted a 20-0 victory to finish the window as Australia refused to travel to the Iran for the second game of the window.
Things did not get much better for Iran in the February 2023 window, losing 96-61 in Japan to open play. And Team Melli lost 86-74 against China despite Yakhchali's 28 points. But Iran were helped into the World Cup as Australia knocked off Kazakhstan.
Best result at the World Cup
Iran will be appearing in the World Cup for the fourth time, and fourth straight. The Asians picked up one victory in the first two appearances and ended up grabbing two wins in the 17th-32nd Classification in 2019. After finishing 19th in their debut and 20th in 2014, their 23rd-placed finish out of 32 was the best result.
Last World Cup appearances
In Iran's debut in 2010, they beat Tunisia 71-58 for their one victory in five games. Iran finished 1-4 in the group stage in 2014 as well, beating Egypt 88-73. At China 2019, Iran dropped all three games in the First Round - losing 83-81 to Puerto Rico; falling 79-67 to Tunisia; and 73-65 versus Spain.
In the 17th-32nd Classification, Iran beat Angola 71-62 and Philippines 95-75 for a 23rd-placed finish.
Iran beat Tunisia in 2010 for their first Word Cup win
Players to watch
Iran really rely on their stars including the likes of Behnam Yakhchali, Arsalan Kazemi, and Mohammad Jamshidi. There are some doubts looming over the participation of ageless Hamed Haddadi, who has played at three World Cups and two Olympics, after he suffered a recent injury.
Mohammad Jamshidi showed during the Asian Qualifiers that he can take responsibility - also at the scoring end - while the team also needs Sajjad Mashayekhi and Mohammad Hassanzadeh to contribute. And the likes of Saied Davarpanah, Arman Zangeneh, Salar Monji, Sina Vahedi, Sajjad Pazrofteh and Navid Rezaeifar must provide the team some depth.
Qualified Team Focus series
Please check the teams we have already broken down. In the past weeks, before the last qualifications that happened in February 2023, we have ordered them by their position in the FIBA World Ranking Men, presented by Nike:
Spain, Australia, France, Slovenia, Lithuania, Greece, Italy, Germany, Canada , Finland, New Zealand, USA, Serbia, Brazil, Venezuela, Montenegro and Puerto Rico.