Asia’s five teams at the FIFA U-20 World Cup 2017: IRAN

( Iran have waited 16 years to participate in their third FIFA U-20 World Cup and will be aiming to reach the knockout tournament for the first time.

Captain Omid Noorafkan, who has emerged as a star at Esteghlal in the last two seasons, was nearly unable to participate in the tournament, with manager Alireza Mansourian reluctant to give up his star defensive midfielder for the team’s upcoming AFC Champions League Round of 16 clash with Al Ain. The 20-year-old played an important role in Iran’s 2016 AFC U-19 Championship semi-final run.

Rostov attacker Reza Shekari, named by The Guardian as one of football’s top young talents in 2015, is another potentially bright talent in Amir Hossein Peyrovani’s squad. Although the 18-year-old has not played in several months to a contractual dispute with former club Zob Ahan, his skills should be enough to leave an impact on the pitch.

Despite a group that looks favorable for a team hoping to finish in second place behind Portugal, Team Melli Javanan have been stymied by poor preparation that could leave them hamstrung in Korea. The FFIRI arranged just one set of friendlies with Group F participants Senegal, and the team has battled with domestic clubs to secure the release of key members, starting pre-tournament training with just nine players.

Schedule (all times GMT+9)

May 21 – vs. Costa Rica (Jeju, 17:00)

May 24 – vs. Zambia (Jeju, 15:00)

May 27 – vs. Portugal (Incheon, 20:00)