Outsiders Iran maintained their chances of qualifying for the round of 16 of the World Cup in Group B with a 2-0 win over Wales. The “Dragons” have disappointed and are facing the end.
Iran’s footballers kept alive their dream of reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time with a passionate performance. They won 2-0 (0-0) late against Wales at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al-Rayyan on Friday (25/11/2022). After the 6-2 debacle against England, the Iranians improved enormously and were initially unlucky to have a goal ruled out for offside and the post twice. Both goals came in injury time.
Iran coach Queiroz: “The task is not over yet”
Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey saw a red card for a foul in the closing stages (86′). Captain Gareth Bale’s side are now on the brink of extinction, with the ‘Dragons’ having just one point in Group B. “It will be very difficult, we have one game left. We need to recover well and then give everything again,” said Bale. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz tried to capture the euphoria in his team: “We haven’t finished our work yet. Everything is open in this group,” he said. “We wanted to give gifts to the Iranian fans – and we want to do it again.”
In the final of the group next Tuesday (29.11.2022/20:00 live on sportschau.de) Wales will play a “brotherly duel” with England, Iran will finally play at the same time against the political arch-nemesis USA.
Iranian players sing the national anthem
With protests against the mullahs’ regime in Iran lasting more than two months, all eyes were once again on the underdogs before kick-off: Would they refuse to sing the national anthem again? like against england? No, at least all the players, including Leverkusen’s Sardar Azmoun, who showed solidarity with protesters at home before the World Cup, were moving their lips.
Offside by Gholizadeh – Iran’s goal is disallowed
On the sporting side, Queiroz’s team proved to be vastly improved. The Portuguese coach made a total of four changes to the starting XI and this was crucial for the Iranians to combine well and have much more of the game early on. However, Ali Gholizadeh’s goal was disallowed as the Belgian was ruled offside after a 1-2 with Azmoun (16′).
Hosseini thwarts Moore’s chance
Four minutes earlier, Kieffer Moore had given the raucous Welsh fans in the stadium a deep breath. The Bournemouth forward, also making a fresh start after the 1-1 draw with the USA, dived first-foot to Connor Roberts’ perfect cross from the right. Iran’s goalkeeper Seyed Hosseini wasted the chance with a brilliant move. The real No. 1, Alireza Beiranvand, who suffered concussion early against England, saw it through the face mask with benevolence.
In the second part of the first half, the game was heated, but there were few scenes in the penalty area. It wasn’t until injury time that there was more excitement in front of the Welsh goal, when Azmoun narrowly missed a cross from half the pitch (45+2).
Double chance Iran – the posts are in the way
Iran were still in control after the restart and again focused on the attacking duo of Azmoun/Gholizadeh. Welsh goalkeeper Hennessey was already beaten in a double chance in the 52nd minute, but Azmoun was first blocked by the right post. On the second attempt, Gholizadeh’s shot from 18 meters hit the left border of the goal. Azmoun had to leave the pitch after a good hour due to a left leg injury.
His colleagues continued to fight for a chance to stay in the tournament. Saeid Ezatolahi narrowly misses the Welsh goal (72′). It wasn’t until the closing stages that the Welsh woke up. In the 83rd minute, Iran’s powerful substitute goalkeeper Hosseini tipped Ben Davies’ long-range shot over the bar.
Wales goalkeeper Hennessey sees red
Almost in return then the first true fair play excitement. The Welsh goalkeeper brutally rammed the outstretched Mehdi Taremi into the chest far outside the penalty area. Referee Mario Escobar from Guatemala first issued a yellow card, but after the intervention of the video assistants, he corrected himself and sent Hennessey off the field with the first dismissal of the tournament (86th).
Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey replaces Mehdi Taremi.
Sagittarius Chesmi: “Victory of Solidarity”
In the end, however, the Iranians were rewarded for their self-sacrificing fight with two goals in added time. Rouzbeh Cheshmi produced a long-range shot from 20 meters flat into the right corner (90+8). Then the pressure of the last days erupted in the cheers of the Melli team – especially when Ramin Rezaeian went better on the counter-attack (90+11). “We were mentally prepared today. It was a victory for solidarity,” said striker Chesmi.