From Blackpool’s ‘Pleasure Beach’ to the sandy beaches of Brazil, and South London to South America – it’s been quite a 2014 so far for Reza Ghoochannejhad – and helping Charlton avoid the dreaded drop was just the beginning.
The man who boasts the longest surname in English football will be hoping it’s remembered for more than just its difficulty to pronounce.
In under a fortnight’s time the striker will be looking to help Carlos Queiroz’s Iran in their World Cup campaign. The team are underdogs, but they arrive as something of an unknown quantity and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Iran are often unfancied against the bigger sides but have a tendency to surprise in those sorts of matches.
Brought in from the Iranian diaspora, Ghoochannejhad only made his international debut at the age of 25, but the striker has netted three times in five qualifying matches to earn himself cult-hero status in the country of his parents – he was raised and grew up in Holland where his parents moved when he was eight.
When Queiroz took over in 2011 the Iran were ranked seventh out of Asia’s 43 FIFA-recognised countries – now they are ranked first on the continent following their remarkable qualification campaign.
Having been a part of a smaller scale rise in fortunes back here in SE7 in the latter half of the last campaign, the man nicknamed ‘Gucci’ is clearly no stranger to defying odds, and it’s a characteristic he and his teammates will have to have in abundance if they are to progress from their group of Bosnia, Argentina and Nigeria.
Iran have never scored more than two goals in a World Cup finals – Ghoochannejhad and co. will be hoping to buck the trend.
There was a feeling amongst Charlton fans that the forward was too lightweight for the English game, and the slower tempo of international football may well enhance his chances of making an impression in Brazil – that and the roaring temperatures look sure to contribute to slower paced matches.
The biggest stage in football is a far cry from the Blackpool illuminations at the start of May – but if Ghoochannejhad can reproduce his qualifying form then Charlton’s only representative at this summer’s World Cup could grab some headlines – although it may need a broadsheet to fit his whole name in.
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