TEHRAN (Tasnim) - With right-sided midfielder Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who finished as top scorer in the Netherlands' Eredivisie with AZ Alkmaar, Team Melli possesses a star with the potential to illuminate the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019.
The Qazvin-native has long been a favorite of Carlos Queiroz, who took the then 20-year-old to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, where, as the youngest player in Team Melli's squad, he came off the bench in all three of his country's group stage matches.
A year later he was part of the squad that reached the knockout rounds of the AFC Asian Cup in Australia, where he scored from the spot in the quarter-final defeat to neighbor Iraq - a game regarded as one of the competition's all-time classics.
Jahanbakhsh was a key component in the national team set-up and helped Team Melli advance to the 2018 World Cup following a highly impressive unbeaten campaign.
Twenty-one for AZ Alkmaar saw him finish as the Erevisie's leading scorer in the 2017-18 campaign, while he was also third in the assists charts.
With goals, assists and industry it was unsurprising that Europe's bigger leagues took notice, and it was English Premier League side Brighton & Hove Albion who snapped him up for a club record fee in July 2018.
With Sardar Azmoun, Karim Ansarifard, Mehdi Taremi and, of course, Jahanbakhsh, Team Melli has a wealth of talent going forward and, as one of the tournament favorites, many will hope it set out to attack in the UAE.
Jahanbakhsh has yet to transfer his goal scoring feats from club to country but all eyes will be on him come Iran's opening game against Yemen in Abu Dhabi, and Iranian fans will be expecting both Jahanbakhsh and Azmoun, in particular, to realize their potential on the Continental stage.
Forty-two years have passed since Team Melli last won the AFC Asian Cup - too long for such a giant of the Asian game - and if that drought is to end, the amiable midfielder will need to be at his best.