Persianfootball.com – TEHRAN, Goals from Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi gave Iran a 2-0 victory which qualified Team Melli for the 2018 World Cup in Russia as the second team after record title holders Brazil.
The qualification is historic in many aspects, as Iran didn’t concede a single goal in their eight final qualifying round matches, qualified for consecutive World Cups for the first time in history and did so with two games in hand.
Iran started without usual starters Pejman Montazeri, Ehsan Hajsafi and Ashkan Dejagah, who all were struggling with fitness. Instead veteran defender Jalal Hosseini, Lokomotiva Zagreb midfielder Ali Karimi and Panionios playmaker Masoud Shojaei got the nod from coach Carlos Queiroz.
Uzbekistan had to at least secure a point in the fortress Azadi stadium in order not to risk losin ground to second placed South Korea, while Iran needed a win to prematurely qualify for the big showpiece in Russia next year.
With so much at stake, both teams started nervously and the many mistakes throughout the game indicated the players were always aware of the importance of the clash.
Iran looked like the sharper team though and while Uzbekistan failed to take advantage of some unexpected holes in Asia’s best defensive line, Iran made the most of a short concentration lapse on the other side after 23 minutes to take the lead.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh played a through ball to Sardar Azmoun, who found himself one on one with the goalkeeper, and made no error when he placed the ball between the keepers legs and into the net.
Uzbekistan looked very determined to answer back, but were more successful in constant rough playing and unsanctioned fouls than in creating any danger for Iran’s number one Alireza Beiranvand.
Instead Iran, who had to replace injured gem Jahanbakhsh with Vahid Amiri shortly before the break, should have doubled the lead just five minutes into the second interval when Mehdi Taremi was brought down inside the area. But captain Shojaei, who stepped up to take the following penalty kick, targeted his shot over the crossbar.
With Uzbekistan continuing their unsuccessful hunt for the final deadly pass, it should be Iran to score a late decider.
After Azmoun had missed a huge chance followin a defensive mistake by the visitors, the Rostov man made it much better two minutes from time when he stole the ball from a defender and combined well with Taremi, who eventually received the ball in the box, where he made himself space enough to curl the ball into the far corner.
A few minutes later the Iranian fans all over the world should be relieved, when the final whistle sealed Iran’s fifth World Cup participation in total.
The two remaining games in South Korea and verus Syria will be the first preparation games for the World Cup finals, in which this young, highly talented and tactically disciplined team could be up for a few surprises.
Iran – Uzbekistan 2-0 (1-0)
World Cup qualifying, final round, Azadi stadium, Tehran
1-0 Sardar Azmoun (23′ / assist by Alireza Jahanbakhsh)
2-0 Mehdi Taremi (88′ / Sardar Azmoun)
Iranian players booked: Azmoun
Iran: Beiranvand – Rezaeian, Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Mohammadi – Ezatollahi, Karimi – Jahanbakhsh (45′ Amiri), Shojaei (70′ Dejagah), Taremi (90′ Ghoochannejhad) – Azmoun