AFC – NASSAU, The Islamic Republic of Iran will fly the flag for Asia in the quarter-finals of this year’s FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in the Bahamas, with Switzerland standing between themselves and a spot in the last four.
Having seen both Japan and the United Arab Emirates fall by the wayside at the end of the Group Stage, Iran will now carry the hopes of a continent when they face their European opponents on Thursday (local time) at the National Beach Soccer Arena in Nassau.
Head coach Mohammad Mirshamsi’s side booked their seventh appearance in the global finals by capturing last month’s AFC Beach Soccer Championship in Malaysia, comfortably accounting for United Arab Emirates with a 7-2 win in the final.
Iran scored an impressive 50 goals at the Kuala Terengganu event, 12 of them coming from tournament MVP Mohammad Mokhtari, and they are now targeting a FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup semi-final appearance after reaching the last eight in the two previous tournaments.
On both occasions, Iran’s competition came to an end in narrow defeats to teams which went on to reach the final. In 2013, they lost 6-5 to eventual champions Russia, while two years ago in Portugal they were eliminated 5-4 by a Tahiti side which fell only to the host nation. It is a measure of Iran’s progress that they defeated both sides at last November’s Beach Soccer Intercontinental Cup.
Their FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup Bahamas 2017 story
Iran 3-2 Mexico: The Iranians defeated Mexico 3-2 in the competition’s opening game. Goalkeeper Peyman Hosseini scored the first goal of the tournament and made a crucial save at the end of the match to give the Asian champions all three points in the Group B opener in Nassau. Iran goalscorers: HOSSEINI 19’07”, AKBARI 28’06”, AHMADZADEH 30’19”
Italy 5-4 Iran: Iran then suffered their first defeat after losing 5-4 to Italy in in a wild, back-and-forth Group B encounter. The Italians took the lead through Gabriele Gori, who guided in a close-range effort with his chest. The Asian champions responded with three unanswered goals, the pick of which was Moslem Mesigar’s spectacular overhead kick that gave the Iranians a 3-1 lead. It was not meant to be however. Iran goalscorers: AKBARI 8’25”, AHMADZADEH 10’13”, MESIGAR 17’04”, MOKHTARI 35’10”
Iran 4-4 Nigeria: (aet. Iran win 2-1 on penalties): Iran held their nerve to beat Nigeria 2-1 on penalties and advance to the quarter-finals. With the two sides level at 4-4 following extra-time, it was the Iranians who remained firm to emerge with the one point for a win via penalties and – in the process – seal a place in the last eight as Group B runners-up. With Switzerland awaiting the winner, Ali Nazem and Amir Akbari both converted their penalties before Ogodo rattled the bar with his spot kick to send the Iranians through. Iran goalscorers: AHMADZADEH 7’53”, 20’05”, MOKHTARI 15’30”, 32’47”
The Swiss set up their clash with Iran after they finished top of Group A. They booked their ticket to the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup by finishing as runners-up during the European qualifiers. This is the country’s fourth World Cup appearance and they finished second in 2009.