May 27, 2024
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AFC – SEOUL, Mehdi Taremi has spoken of the immense pride he feels to be part of the Islamic Republic of Iran side that qualified for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 as Group A winners with two games to spare.

Unbeaten Iran face second-placed Korea Republic at Seoul World Cup Stadium on Thursday having already secured their place in the competition after a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan in June confirmed a second qualification in a row for the first time in the country’s history.

And it was Taremi’s goal with two minutes remaining that calmed any end-of-game nerves as Team Melli moved seven points clear of Korea Republic, whose 3-2 defeat in Qatar on the same Matchday leaves them in a major fight to finish in the runners-up position ahead of the penultimate fixture.

“Before the game my teammate, Karim Ansari, told me that he felt I was going to score, so when I did I ran to the bench to try and celebrate with him,” revealed Taremi.

“But I couldn’t find him because he was warming up behind the goal, although in the end all the players and staff celebrated together.

“We were 1-0 up but my goal in the final minutes confirmed the win and our qualification for the World Cup in Russia and, not only that, we qualified for the second successive time.

“It was a historic achievement that I was part of and I feel very proud and honoured about that.”

After making his Iran debut in 2015, 25-year-old Taremi has posted a scoring return of more than a goal every two games as the Persepolis striker has cemented his place in the starting lineup.

Taremi has now also scored in each of his last three games with match-winning goals in 1-0 wins over Qatar and China also proving invaluable in Team Melli’s march to the World Cup.

And with Russia-based Sardor Azmoun – who opened the scoring against Uzbekistan but is suspended for Thursday’s match in Seoul – alongside him, Iran currently boast a frontline that is sure to be the envy of many on the continent.

“Since the first day I was called up to the national team, I built a close relationship with Sardor,” said Taremi.

“I have a good relationship with all my teammates but because Sardor was a closer age to me we became good friends.

“I also work with him better on the pitch. I’ve always admired his personality and I like how he plays football.”

Iran have gained many plaudits for their defence, having yet to concede in their eight qualifying games, but Carlos Queiroz’s side have also predominantly relied on Taremi and Azmoun to find the goals.

Of the eight they have scored, Taremi has netted three and Azmoun two, while the last player to find the back of the net aside from the pair was defender Jalal Hosseini in a 1-0 win in Uzbekistan on Matchday Three.

So, with Azmoun sitting out the penultimate fixture, will Taremi score for the fourth game in succession and continue to chase down Iraq’s Mohannad Abdulraheem, Saudi Arabia’s Nawaf Al Abed and the UAE’s Ahmed Khalil – who are all on five goals – in the race for the top scorer accolade in the Asian qualifiers?

This is obviously something that is personal and personal things always come second,” insisted Taremi.

“We achieved qualification for the World Cup together and it feels great to be going to the biggest sporting tournament in the world.

“Of course if I score, and I’m going to try to, it will be great for me. But it doesn’t matter if it’s me or my teammates who scores, as long as we win.”

Photos: Lagardère Sports