Iran’s national football squad failed to advance to the knockout stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup after being held 1-1 by Portugal, although it delivered an impressive performance and came so close to causing a stunning upset on a night of high drama.
Iran, the best team of Asia, and Portugal, the defending European champion, were playing their last group match at Russia’s Saransk on Monday.
During the course of a wild evening in the final round of Group B games, Portugal were top of the group and then second, but were a whisker away from being eliminated altogether, surviving a huge scare to book their place in the last 16.
Iran had proved stubborn opponents but were eventually undone in the final minute of the first half when Ricardo Quaresma’s sublime shot swerved inside the post from distance, and had appeared to set Portugal on the path to victory.
Six minutes into the second half Portugal had the chance to solidify their lead when they were awarded a VAR-assisted penalty for a foul on Ronaldo, but the Portugal captain’s penalty was too close to Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, Deutsche Welle reported.
That gave Iran a second wind and they were given a lifeline when they were awarded a penalty via VAR for a handball by Cedric Soares, and it was converted by Karim Ansarifard.
Seconds later and with time running out, Iran had a golden chance to win it and send Portugal out, but Mehdi Taremi sent his shot into the side-netting with the goal gaping.
In the other match of the group, which was being held concurrently, Spain snatched a 2-2 draw against Morocco.
According to the final standings in Group B, Portugal and Spain, who were tied at the top of the group with five points each, are into the knockout stages of the tournament.
Iran, who won Morocco 1-0 in its opening match but was defeated 1-0 by Spain, finished third with four points.
Iranian President Lauds Team Melli
In a message published shortly after the match, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani congratulated Iranian players for delivering the best performance of Team Melli in the history of the world’s most popular sport event.
Rouhani said the brilliant performance of Team Melli put on display the unity, hope and steadfastness of the Iranian nation.
“You fought for dreams of a great nation and emerged proudly [thanks to your] admirable self-confidence,” he said.