Persianfootball.com – MOSCOW, 2018 Years ago, three high-priests of the ancient Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism – more commonly known as the 3 Magi or the 3 wise men – are said to have witnessed an alignment of the stars that foretold the birth of a king.
Although no Magi – or wise men for that matter – were involved in the writing of PFDC’s exclusive article before Iran’s opening match, it did foretell of a serious alignment of the stars and the birth of a new period of luck for Team Melli and the “Group of Defying Odds”.
Before the start of the tournament, only the most optimistic Team Melli fans believed that Iran had the quality and talent to defeat Morocco, but after the announcement of a rather bizarre and confused line-up and a nightmare start for Iran, it was clear a victory would require the intervention of Lady Luck.
And that intervention would be delivered at the oddest time and in the oddest manner… in the 5th minute of injury time, Moroccan striker Aziz Bouhaddouz who had been substituted in the 77th minute to find the back of Iran’s net and to break the stalemate, netted in a header, but on the wrong side of the field!
A minute later the match was over, Iran had secured a dear victory and its first ever win in an opening match, second win of all time and back-to-back clean sheets in its last two openers, and Lady Luck had forever marked June 15th as “Rooze Aziz” [meaning day of the dear] for Team Melli and its fans!
Team Melli also made history by becoming the first team since 1966 to score in a half of a World Cup match, oddly enough without having attempted a single shot! Consequently, Iran moved up 8 spots in the all-time World Cup table, jump-frogging rivals Saudi Arabia and Australia, as well as Senegal, Greece, Ukraine, Tunisia and Wales.
But it wasn’t until hours later that Lady Luck’s contribution and the significance of the numbers 5 and 1 – the minute in injury time when the 1 goal of the match was scored – aside from being the reverse of the date of the match (15), started to become clearer.
At the time of the draw for the qualifying rounds of this World Cup, Iran was 51st in the FIFA rankings. Iran’s first victory came against Guam at the Azadi Stadium which is minutes east of the 51st Meridian East, after a disastrous away start at the “Door to Hell” as popularized by PFDC three years ago.
But knowing how cynical some Team Melli fans can be, Lady Luck was not going to let her contribution to Iran’s victory go unnoticed or be marginalized and within 3 hours Cristiano Ronaldo had scored the 51st hat-trick in World Cup history which was coincidentally – or not – the 51st of his career!
With that intervention, Iran sit at the top of a World Cup group for the first time ever and just a win away from reaching the second round and breaking the curse of being the only 1 of the top 5 Asian teams not to have advanced beyond the first round!
And one cannot help but appreciate, that with all the sanctions and controversy surrounding Puma and Team Melli, maybe these multiple manifestations of 51 are also Lady Luck’s cruel way of reminding the United States, a country with only 50 stars in its flag, that they fell one point short of reaching the World Cup, as she subtly whispers to Team Melli and its fans “from Russia with love”!