On Monday, June 12, Iran’s National Football Team became the first Asian team and -- after Brazil -- only the second team in the world to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup competition in Russia.
Carlos Queiroz, the head coach of Iran’s national team, succeeded in setting new records in the history of Iranian football.
In the qualifying games for the cup, Iran’s team was the only one whose goal was not breached.
Previously, Iran and England were the only two teams to play without conceding a goal. But, the night before the Iran-Uzbekistan game, the Scottish National Team scored two goals against the “Three Lions” of England, leaving Iran as the only team in this category.
Queiroz’s second historical record was that this was Iran’s second consecutive qualification for the World Cup, something that had never happened before.
Iran played in Group A of the qualifying games. Other players in the group were South Korea, Uzbekistan, China, Syria and Qatar.
In seven games, Iran scored 17 and so it needed only one win in the remaining three games to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. Iran had looked forward to beating Uzbekistan in Tehran to qualify sooner than ever before.
Iran stepped into the field with a lineup consisting of Alireza Biranvand (goalkeeper), Jalal Hosseini (defender), Morteza Pouraliganji (defender and midfielder), Ramin Rezaian (defender and midfielder), Milad Mohammadi (defender), Saeid Ezatolahi (midfielder), Ali Karimi (midfielder and forward), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (midfielder and forward), Mehdi Taremi (forward), Masoud Shojaei (midfielder) and Sardar Azmoun (midfielder and forward).
This lineup contained a special surprise: it was the first time that Ali Karimi played in the World Cup qualifying games.
Iran was able to pull ahead very early on. At the 23rd minute, Sardar Azmoun scored the first goal for Iran. Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who was deep into Uzbekistan’s defensive line, spotted Azmoun and passed him the ball. Azmoun has always been good at grabbing such chances. With Azmoun’s accurate shoot, the ball went between the legs of Aleksandr Lobanov, the Uzbek goalkeeper, scoring a goal for Iran.
With this goal, Azmoun now had 19 goals under his belt and, along with Gholam Hossein Mazloomi, ranked fifth among Iranian footballers with the highest number of goals in Iran’s football history.
After this goal, and until halftime, Iran fought to control the game. Iranian halfbacks held the line at midfield and kept Uzbekistan at bay. Iran nearly scored the second goal by Mehdi Taremi’s kick but the ball missed the goal.
Iran started the second half with offense. At the 48th minute, Iran could have scored its second goal very early on. But Taremi had to stop in the penalty area when the Uzbek defender committed a foul.
The Omani referee pointed to the penalty spot and the Iranian captain, Masoud Shojaei, delivered the penalty kick. But again, the ball bypassed the goal and left the field.
Queiroz adjusted his tactics. By changing the players, he pushed Iran towards offense. By sending Vahid Amiri and Ashkan Dejagah to the field, Queiroz showed that he wanted victory by more than one goal. And the changes paid off.
At the 88th minute, Mehdi Taremi carried the ball to the Uzbek penalty area. He dribbled the ball around two Uzbek defenders and scored the second goal.
Iran’s 2-0 Iranian victory over Uzbekistan was the Iranian ticket to the World Cup.
For religious reasons, Iran was allowed to play against its competitors in Group A one day earlier than scheduled.
With 20 points, Iran went to the top of Group A and qualified to play in the World Cup.
Next to Iran is South Korea with 13 points and Uzbekistan with 12 points.
Now these two countries have to fight it out to become the second team in Group A that qualifies for the Russian games.