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The Sporting Life Team's best bets for Saturday 15 December
1

Saturday's Bets of the Day

We provide a snap-shot of our best bets for the weekend across a range of sports in one convenient place.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package
2

Saturday's Premier League tips

Mark your card for Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the Premier League with the best bets, Super 6 predictions and top stats for each game.

3

Sporting Life Accumulator

With the Sporting Life Acca landing again last weekend, we've got four selections this week all to win enhanced to 40/1 with Sky Bet.

Our best bets for the latest Sky Bet EFL action4

Sky Bet EFL betting preview

Following a 16/1 winning tip in the Europa League, Tom Carnduff has found three best goalscorer bets to back in the Sky Bet Championship.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview
5

Entertainer at the Etihad

Man City host Everton in Saturday's early kick-off and George Pitts has two best bets for you to consider.

Iran World Cup 2018 profile: Ones to watch, best bets and more

All you need to know about Iran ahead of the World Cup
All you need to know about Iran ahead of the World Cup

There's probably a few gaps in your footballing knowledge of Iran, luckily our World Cup guide can put you straight.

Iran Factfile

Coach - Carlos Queiroz: One of those familiar faces that will surprise a few people when he pops up on the Iran bench. A vastly experienced man at the helm, this is a third consecutive World Cup for Queiroz having led Portugal to the 2010 finals before back-to-back qualifications for Iran.

The former Manchester United coach and Real Madrid manager also qualified for the 2002 World Cup with South Africa but quit before the tournament after a fall out with the South African FA.

Legend - Ali Daei: The prolific striker is the name in Iranian football after his long and distinguished goalscoring career. The first Asian to score in the Champions League, Daei is an Iranian football institution.

Daei finally got his World Cup chance in 2006, 13 years after international debut and he was way past his best. In fact, many critics thought he should not have played but it would’ve been a brave coach not to select the legend for his team.

Star man - Sardar Azmoun: The 23-year-old prolific striker has been banging in the goals in startling fashion for Iran, having notched 23 in 21 internationals up until March this year. The Rubin Kazan man will feel at home in their second group game against Spain as it is being held in his club side’s stadium.

Did you know? Iran striker Ali Daei is the most prolific goalscorer in international football history. He’s bagged 109 times for his country, a full 25 more than Hungarian great Ferenc Puskas. His nearest active rival is Cristiano Ronaldo, who’s on 81.

Fun Fact: Russia 2018 marks the first time that Iran have ever qualified for back-to-back World Cups in their history - and they did it early as the third team to qualify for this summer's event, only beaten by Brazil with hosts Russia automatically included.

Qualifying: Unbeaten in their AFC Third Round Qualifying group, winning six and drawing four, they built their success around stout defence including their world record of 12 clean sheets in a row stretching back to a 6-0 round two victory over Guam. Overall they conceded just two goals in ten third-round matches.

Group B fixtures: Morocco (4pm, June 15, St Petersburg), Spain (7pm, June 20, Kazan), Portugal (7pm, June 25, Saransk)

Iran squad

Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo).

Defenders: Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende), Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Alsaad), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal).

Midfielders: Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Ehsan Haji Safi (Olympiacos), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).

Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar), Mehdi Taremi (Al Gharafa), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds), Ashkan Dejagah (Nottingham Forest).

Iran Profile

It's a second successive World Cup appearance for Iran as Carlos Queiroz worked his magic again with a superb qualifying campaign that saw them set an international record with 12-straight clean sheets.

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz
Carlos Queiroz has led Iran to successive World Cups

That organisation will be crucial if they are to make an impact in Russia, and they will want to hit the ground running with Morocco their first opponents before facing the Iberian powerhouses of Spain and Portugal.

Queiroz actually quit his post during qualification after a row with the Iranian FA but they wisely put the matter to bed and got the Portuguese tactician back into the fold without doing too much damage. Iran will set up defensively in Russia and hope to hit teams on the break; they'll have to execute their plan to perfection given the opposition waiting for them.

Who to watch out for

Striker Sardar Azmoun is the obvious standout, at 23 he's already the fifth-highest scorer in Iran footballing history, and some believe he could eventually overtake the great Ali Daei's world record. Elsewhere it's a commentators nightmare with Reza Ghoochannejhad banging in the goals in the Netherlands with Heerenveen.

The equally almost unpronounceable Alireza Jahanbakhsh is also doing well in Holland, he wanted to be the Iranian Johan Cruyff when he moved to the European country and his form for AZ has given him a chance to at least go some way to earning that label.

How did they qualify?

In short, they qulified easily and quickly! Iran booked their place in Russia after coming through their AFC Third Round Qualifying group unbeaten, winning six and drawing four. They conceded just two goals in ten third round matches, and they set a new world record of 12 clean sheets in a row stretching back to their 6-0 round two victory over Guam.

Young striker Sardar Azmoun scored four goals in qualifying, including a brace in their final game against Syria, to be Team Melli's top scorer.

What will I hear when they play?

As you would perhaps expect from Iran, they are no shrinking violets, and their major football song is a bit on the ominous side...

“What will Iran do? Destroy them!”

Any interesting facts about Iran?

Iran is widely regarded as the world’s oldest continuous major civilization, with historical and urban settlements dating back to 4000 BC.

Iran, previously known as Persia, is the 18th-most populated country in the world with 80 million inhabitants. That means there's a huge number of football fans - international games at the Azadi stadium regularly draw crowds of over 100,000 fanatical supporters. That's one tough away day.

Any famous football moments?

Few and far between for Iran sadly as they have only won one game ever at a World Cup - but what a win it was as they beat the United States 2-1 in the 1998 group stages. You can only imagine how that result went down back in Tehran.

All of that class of 98 are still regarded as heroes back in Iran after their exploits in Lyon.

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Most Read Football

The Sporting Life Team's best bets for Saturday 15 December
1

Saturday's Bets of the Day

We provide a snap-shot of our best bets for the weekend across a range of sports in one convenient place.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package
2

Saturday's Premier League tips

Mark your card for Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the Premier League with the best bets, Super 6 predictions and top stats for each game.

3

Sporting Life Accumulator

With the Sporting Life Acca landing again last weekend, we've got four selections this week all to win enhanced to 40/1 with Sky Bet.

Our best bets for the latest Sky Bet EFL action4

Sky Bet EFL betting preview

Following a 16/1 winning tip in the Europa League, Tom Carnduff has found three best goalscorer bets to back in the Sky Bet Championship.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview
5

Entertainer at the Etihad

Man City host Everton in Saturday's early kick-off and George Pitts has two best bets for you to consider.

Football Tips

Sporting Life Accumulator

With the Sporting Life Acca landing again last weekend, we've got four selections this week all to win enhanced to 40/1 with Sky Bet.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview

Entertainer at the Etihad

Man City host Everton in Saturday's early kick-off and George Pitts has two best bets for you to consider.

Sporting Life's Premier League preview package

Saturday's Premier League tips

Mark your card for Saturday's 3pm kick-offs in the Premier League with the best bets, Super 6 predictions and top stats for each game.