Iran’s World Cup victory over Morocco lit up the country's Friday night. The game was a roller coaster. First there was that scary 15-minute defense against the Moroccans’ massive onslaught. Afterward, Iran controlled the game, but then two valuable players had to be replaced because of injuries, playing havoc with the coach’s playbook. In the end, however, a miracle happened, and a self-inflicted goal by a Moroccan defender gave Iran the victory.
The World Cup’s Group B — dubbed the “Group of Death” — is now Iran’s “Group of Life.” Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Iran’s National Football Team, has become the man behind every “first” in Iranian football: Competing at two consecutive World Cups, the first Iranian victory in its first game at the World Cup, breaking Morocco’s record of 19 consecutive victories, and of course, getting Iran to the top of a group in which the two most formidable teams, Portugal and Spain, were also competing.
No wonder, then, that both traditional and social media were abuzz with the news of the Iranian victory.
“Iran needed a miracle to win and this miracle was provided by the celebrated Moroccan defender,” reported the Russian news agency RIA Novosti.
“It's a bitter moment for me,” said Aziz Bouhaddouz, the Moroccan defender whose header delivered victory to Iran [French link]. “Unfortunately, this happens in football. Today, it happened to me. I want to apologize to the team, the fans and the 35 million people in Morocco...From now on, I am the idiot. But I will manage the situation since I have been in this sport for many years. My teammates supported me. Now we will unite and fight back."
The football website Four Four Two called Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Biranvand’s performance brilliant. “He had confident exits. In two instances he saved the goal from serious threats. He should be recognized as the best player in the field.” The BBC had a similar view, and declared Biranvand to be Iran’s best player of the match.
“Morocco presented a goal to Iran that it was not even close to [scoring],” an article in Madrid’s sports newspaper Marca declared. Of course, the paper does not believe that either Iran or Morocco have any chance against Spain’s National Football Team. “These two teams are very ordinary and lack big stars,” the article read.
“Luck joined Iran against Morocco,” was the headline on another Spanish sports website. However, it also said: “One cannot ignore how Queiroz’s team tried hard until the last moments. Iranians fought for this win with all they had.”
Moroccans in Tears after the “Deadly Goal”
Predictably, Moroccan media reacted to Iran’s victory in a mood of sorrow and sadness. Moroccan newspaper Al Yaoum 24’s morning headline read: “Deadly Goal.”
“We are left with nothing except tears and sighs. But we have to start anew,” the article read.
In contrast, the Asian Football Federation’s website was awash with joy. The Iranian national team, it reported, “showed lots of grit and determination to overcome a talented Morocco side in its opening match.” The site also said that Iran’s victory made Asia proud, and wished success for the other three Asian teams at the World Cup.
Saudi website Ajel led with: “Morocco collapses under friendly fire,” and observed that “Morocco had good control over the game but lost many chances and, in the end, the fire from its own defender led it to burn and lose.” Another Saudi paper, Arriyadiyah, published news of Morocco’s loss prominently on its website, and referred to Arab teams’ consecutive losses in the first two days of the World Cup. “After Saudi Arabia and Egypt lost to Russian and Uruguayan national teams, this was the third defeat by an Arab national team at the 2018 World Cup.”
The Qatari paper Estad al-Doha adopted an approving tone. “Iran showed that it was not in Russia just to have fun,” it said. “Morocco was not arrogant but it was defeated by the strength of Iran.”
The sports website Bleacher Report published an imagined ideal football team made out of World Cup players who had taken part in the tournament so far, featuring two from Iran’s National Football Team: Omid Ebrahimi and Ehsan Hajsafi.
The full dream team is as follows: Goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy (Egypt), defender José Ignacio Fernandez Iglesias, known as “Nacho” (Spain), center back José Maria Giménez de Vargas (Uruguay), center back Diego Godin (Uruguay), left midfielder Ehsan Hajsafi (Iran), defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets (Spain), midfielder Omid Ebrahimi (Iran), midfielder Andrés Iniesta (Spain), attacking midfielder Francisco Román Alarcón Suárez, known as “Isco” (Spain), striker Diego da Silva Costa (Spain) and forward Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal).
Saudis Supporting Iran?
On social media, the most surprising reactions to Iran’s victory came from the Saudis. Since June 14, when the Saudi national team lost to Russia 5-0, some Saudis started a Twitter campaign to support Iran against Morocco. The reason for this was that Moroccan fans had gone on social networks to ridicule the heavy Saudi loss. It was also unexpected that this support continued after Iran’s victory against Morocco, with Saudis congratulating Iranians and expressing their friendship toward them.
“I congratulate Iran on its victory against Morocco and today I am really happy,” said Saudi Abdul Razzaq on Twitter. “What a beautiful day!” said another, called Annas. “Congratulations Iran.Don’t stop. A Saudi Fan. I love you” tweeted Bassaj. “Congratulations from Saudis to the great Persian nation,” wrote Abdullah.
Relations between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Saudi Arabia are extremely tense, but it would appear that for at least one week Iranian and Saudi people feel closer to each other. A picture of a Saudi fan and an Iranian fan holding the flags of their respective countries and smiling has been posted on Twitter many times. This, perhaps, is the greatest miracle brought about by football.
More about Iran at the 2018 World Cup:
Iran’s Last-Minute Miracle Win, June 15, 2018
Iran vs. Morocco: The First Challenge, June 14, 2018
Decoding Iran’s Politics: Football and State Interference, June 11, 2018
Iranian Football and US Sanctions, June 13, 2018
One Day to go Until the World Cup, June 12, 2018
Get to Know Iran’s 2018 World Cup Team, June 7, 2018
Football Star Azizi Discusses the 2018 World Cup, May 31, 2018
Iran Is Going to the World Cup!, June13, 2017