Iran's men's national football team hit a new high at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, narrowly missing the knockout rounds of the competition.
Unfancied in a group featuring European giants Spain and Portugal, as well as Morocco, Iran recorded their second win at the World Cup and their first since France 1998.
A victory over Morocco followed by a narrow defeat against Spain and a draw with Portugal saw the side miss out on progressing by just a point, but they were remembered for their solid defensive work.
Yet, a return to the World Cup for a third edition in a row looks in danger for the Persian Stars who have had a languishing start to their Asian Football Confederation (AFC) qualifying campaign.
From their first four matches, Iran have won two and lost two - an astonishingly poor record for a team that were drawn as the highest ranked team in Asia.
Iraq recorded a famous win over their rivals in November 2019, coming a month after Iran had lost 1-0 away to Bahrain.
Only the top team in each group will be guaranteed a spot in the third round of qualifying, while only the four teams with the best records in second in their group will progress too.
As things stand, Iran are in third and will need wins against Bahrain and Iraq at home to have a chance of continuing their hopes of qualifying for Qatar 2022.
When I say at home, I mean in Bahrain, because the COVID-19 pandemic has caused the wild and unpredictable AFC competition to become even more wild and unpredictable.
Due to the ongoing restrictions which made travelling between countries across Asia near impossible, the AFC had to cancel a number of matches and decided to replace them with eight hub venues.
For practical purposes, this is a competent move from the AFC - meaning all teams in every group will be in place to allow matches to be played with hopefully, little disruption.
Bahrain was chosen as the Group C host, meaning all matches will be played in the Gulf state, including Iran's two vital matches.
So now, Bahrain will play Iran at home twice - a decision that has infuriated the Football Federation of the Islamic Republic of Iran (FFIRI).
They appealed the AFC - whose President is Bahraini, Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa - decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) and despite the FFIRI not having the cleanest record of governance in the past, its concerns here feel warranted.
With Bahrain potentially playing in front of fans, this would be a significant advantage for the hosts and could be regarded as unfair for Iran.
Some people - particularly Iraq and Bahrain fans - might shrug their shoulders at this alleged injustice.
"That's just how the cookie crumbles," they might say, or an equivalent phrase in Arabic.
And sometimes it is just hard luck, but this hard luck has not been handed elsewhere in the centralised format.
The Tehran Times reported that Kuwait was given hosting rights in Group B after the AFC regarded it good sportsmanship to allow them to play their scheduled home match, at home, against Jordan.
Both sides sit on 10 points, separated by goal difference in second and third.
If all is what it seems, what is the difference between this and the Bahrain/Iran dispute?
For clarity, Bahrain were set to play Hong Kong and Cambodia at home and Iran away.
These first two matches on paper should be winnable regardless of location, and they have played both their matches against the other serious contender, Iraq.
For what it is worth, Iran completely have a case here.
Among the blistering heat of Doha and the literal blood, sweat and tears of all who constructed the stadium, I am sure there will be time to reflect on what will likely be a bizarre qualifying campaign.
It will be interesting to see what nations benefit from this format, or if it helps at all.
Less quantifiable will be the omissions of players missing due to positive COVID-19 tests across the world.
Although mostly on a minor scale so far, we have already seen an array of European teams lose key players due to positive tests in the first few rounds of UEFA qualifying in March.
Although not related to the World Cup qualification, controversy recently came about following a scheduled Africa Cup of Nations qualifying tie between Benin and Sierra Leone.
Local authorities said at least five of Benin's players had tested positive for the virus.
Initially, Benin's players would not leave the team bus after being told players who had tested positive for the match were ineligible for the Group L clash in Freetown.
Benin would not play without the players in what was a decisive match to reach the tournament finals.
The tie was later rescheduled for June.
Although no accusation of such to, tests can be manipulated or contaminated, and such actions can completely alter a team's chances of success.
Could the virus' safety protocols be abused by home teams?
The current situation could allow it.
While Iran continues to wrangle with the AFC over hosting rights, Asian qualifying is set to restart at the end of May and run through June.
From there, 12 teams will compete in the final group stage, with four or five teams from the continent making the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
Whatever the outcome of the CAS decision is, AFC qualification will continue to show unpredictable, controversial and dramatic football.