National team begins camp in Nairobi to prepare for third clash against Asian champions Iran
It is now official that Kenya’s national football team will be facing six-time World Cup qualifiers, the Islamic Republic of Iran, on March 28 in Tehran.
This will be the third time that Harambee Stars will be facing the Iranians, with the first being a friendly match in April 1977 when Stars went down 3-1. Another tie between the side was in 2009 in Tehran, where Harambee Stars lost narrowly to the host with a 1-0 defeat.
While Harambee Stars has been out of action for more than one year, their opponents are fresh from World Cup duties where they took part in late last year’s Qatar tournament.
Even though Iran did not match the country’s expectations performance-wise in Qatar, they bowed out heads high after recording their only third victory at the FIFA World Cup after they trounced Wales 2-0. They lost heavily to England and went down against USA in Group B matches.
Post world cup, Iran had scheduled two build up games as they prepare the Asian Cup that will be held in Qatar, come next year January
One of the planned friendly games against their neighbor, Iraq, did not materialize since Iraq reportedly wanted the game to be staged in Baghdad.
However, Iran will be facing 2018 World Cup hosts, Russia, on March 23, before battling it out with Harambee Stars at the Azadi Stadium in their capital Tehran.
Currently, Iran is position 24 in the latest FIFA rankings, released last December and the best ranked team amongst their Asian opponents.
The only African teams positioned above Iran are Morocco and Senegal.
While Harambee Stars is determined to make it to the 2026 World Cup, Iran has been at the global showpiece on six occasions, 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022.
However, they have failed to progress past the group stage, managing three victories against USA (1998), Morocco (2018) and Wales (2022).
Immediately after the global tournament, Iran parted ways with coach Carlos Queiroz, who has since been unveiled as the new Qatar national coach.
Former player and coach Amir Ghalenoei, 59, was recently appointed to replace Queiroz and returns for the national duty for a second stint after managing the team from 2006 to 2007.
Some of the most dependable players for the Iran national team included FC Porto’s Mehdi Teremi who netted 30 goals for the team in 63 appearances, and Sardar Azmoun, who plays in Germany for Bayer Leverkusen.
Others include: Saman Ghoddos of Brentford and Alireza Jahanbakhsh of Feyenoord.
Iran most recent matches with African teams have been against AFCON Champions Senegal, in September 2022 where they managed a 1-1 draw in a pre-world cup friendly.
Another game was against Algeria, in 2019, during the Asian Cup where Iran lost 2-1.
Harambee Stars head coach Engin Firat is optimistic that the match ahead will be of immense help in assessing the team’s situation and where they want to be.