Steven Beitashour with Iran
Courtesy of Football Federation of Iran

World Cup: Steven Beitashour relishing opportunity with Iran – "I'll never forget it"

Vancouver Whitecaps defender Steven Beitashour still has to pinch himself when he thinks about being presented with the amazing opportunity of being part of the 2014 World Cup.

This will be his first World Cup, and he's still unsure what to expect and how he should react to the whole experience.

"I don't know if I'm having too much fun or not having fun," Beitashour told reporters in a conference call from Brazil on Thursday. "Right now, the way I carry myself is that I have a job to do and I want to do it to the best of my ability. I'm maybe too focused, I don't know. I'll be able to tell you after the World Cup."

Born in San Jose, Calif., to Iranian parents, Beitashour holds dual Iranian-American citizenship and was eligible to play for either country. Iran showed initial interest in 2011, but it was the USMNT that came calling first in August 2012 when the right back was an unused substitute for a game against Mexico.

That reopened the door just over a year later for a call up to Iran for their 2015 AFC Asian Cup qualification campaign. Beitashour made his debut as a late sub in Iran's 2-1 win over Thailand in October 2013, and there's been no looking back for the 27-year-old since.

"It was kind of a long process," Beitashour said. "In 2011, I was contacted by the Iranian national team and that was well before the US national team, so it was a process that we were going through.

"The whole time I thought this was the national team I was going to be playing for because they were so interested. Unfortunately it took a while to get all the paperwork and get back and forth. They just showed their interest in 2011 and said we're going to be watching you.”

It was after he started the paperwork to join Iran when Beitashour got a “surprise” call from the USMNT.

“And and I said, ‘Yeah, this is a national team at an international level, cool,’” he said. “At that stage, of course I'll accept a call. It was one of those, I didn't get capped, and the next year the Iranian team called me in and I did get capped. So it wasn't necessarily my decision, it was more the coach's decision that they wanted to play me and the rest is history, I guess."

Iran face a tough task if they are to advance out of the group stages in Brazil. Drawn in Group F, which features Argentina, many people's favorites to lift the trophy, Iran will be looking toward their games against Nigeria and Bosnia & Herzegovina as the key encounters to get points.

The Super Eagles of Nigeria are first up on Monday in Curitiba (3 pm ET; ESPN, CBC in Canada), and Beitashour knows the importance of Iran getting out of the blocks early.

"I definitely think Argentina is the favorite. They do deserve it," Beitashour said. "They've been a great team, and they've not been hyped for nothing. I think everyone expects that out of them, but I think the second spot of our group is up for grabs. We've got three hungry teams that are trying to win it, so that's why it's so important for that first game to start off on the right foot."

However Beitashour and Iran's journey plays out, he knows this may be a once in a lifetime opportunity and is just excited to be a part of it all.

"When we were about to land in Brazil, just seeing the country, that feeling right there, I'll never forget it,” he said. “It's been really exciting and great every day we've been here, and I'm excited for the 16th to come up."

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