HONGKONG (Reuters) – Iran coach Carlos Queiroz has omitted veteran central defender Jalal Hosseini and Belgium-based striker Kaveh Rezaei from his 24-man preliminary squad for the World Cup finals in Russia.
Hosseini, a veteran of the 2014 tournament in Brazil, was a surprise omission after the 36-year-old started in half of the country’s matches in the final round of qualifying and was a key member of a defence that conceded just two goals in 10 games.
While he last started a qualifying match for Iran in June 2017, when he partnered Morteza Pouraligani against Uzbekistan, the Persepolis centre half has remained part of Queiroz’s squad.
He was a vital component of the Persepolis side that won the most recent Iranian league title and scored a late winner last week to take them through to the quarter-finals of this year’s Asian Champions League.
Rezaei, meanwhile, misses out despite impressing for Charleroi in the Belgian top flight since moving from Esteghlal last year.
The 26-year-old has scored 12 times in the Belgian First Division A in 29 appearances for his club.
Queiroz’s squad features AZ Alkmaar’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who finished the season as the top scorer in the Netherlands, while Sardar Azmoun is expected to lead the line after another impressive year in the Russian Premier League with Rubin Kazan.
Iran kick off their World Cup campaign against Morocco in St Petersburg on June 15, before taking on Spain and Portugal in a demanding Group B as the country aim to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Rashid Mazaheri (Zob Ahan), Amir Abedzadeh (Maritimo, Portugal).
Defenders: Ali Gholizadeh (Saipa), Majid Hosseini (Esteghlal), Milad Mohammadi (Akhmat Grozny, Russia), Mohammad Khanzadeh (Padideh), Morteza Pouraliganji (Al Saad, Qatar), Pejman Montazeri (Esteghlal), Ramin Rezaeian (Ostende, Belgium), Roozbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal).
Midfielders: Ehsan Haji Safi (Olympiacos, Greece), Karim Ansarifard (Olympiacos, Greece), Masoud Shojaei (AEK Athens, Greece), Mehdi Torabi (Saipa), Omid Ebrahimi (Esteghlal), Saeid Ezatolahi (Amkar Perm, Russia)
Forwards: Alireza Jahanbakhsh (AZ Alkmaar, Netherlands), Ashkan Dejageh (Nottingham Forest, England), Mehdi Taremi (Al-Gharafa, Qatar), Reza Ghoochannejhad (Heerenveen, Netherlands), Saman Ghoddos (Ostersunds, Sweden), Sardar Azmoun (Rubin Kazan, Russia), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis).
(Reporting by Michael Church; Editing by John O’Brien)