Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The opening match of Iran confirmed predictions – at least partially. Iran lost 0-3 to Holland. But it was not a simple walkover. Mohajerani modestly said before the finals that his team is no match to others, but they will fight. And they did quite impressively. The team was competent, fit, enthusiastic, and tough.
Iranian defender fiercely tackles mighty Rene van der Kerkhof. The Dutch really had to sweat for victory. Two of their goals came from penalty shots – Iran was not exactly outplayed and simply thrashed. Commentators realized they had to learn Iranian names.

The second match annihilated prediction – against Scotland, Iran not only played bravely, but were the better team. Scotland was unable to score to all – Eskandarian scored in his own net and Scotland was luckily leading until the 60th minute.
Scots brought to their knees by unfancied Iran. Danaiyfar was the hero, scoring the equalizer. And Iran really deserved to win.

The group matches so far were real Russian roulette and before the last round Iran had a chance of advancing – Peru and Holland had 3 points each and Scotland – 1. If Iran won over Peru and Scotland over Holland, goal difference would have been the decider. Scotland won. A major surprise was possible and memories from 1966, when North Korea reached ¼ were evoked. But it was not to be – Iran played bravely, yet, Peru was flying.
Unfortunately, Iran was unable to stop Cubillas and was losing 0-3 by the 39th minute. They managed to score a goal in the 40th minute, but that was all – Peru scored one more in the second half and Iran was eliminated.

Their final record was not great at all – one tie, two losses, and 2-8 goal difference – but the numbers are misleading. Iran impressed – they played good modern football and were quite equal to the other teams. Curiously, 4 goals against Iran were scored from penalties – a dubious record, suggesting unsophisticated roughness, but it was not quite so. Rather, Iran employed European-style no-nonsense football and did not hesitate to commit fouls when there was no other option. Naïve they were not, perhaps lacking a bit of experience, but a team with good potential. Iran was appreciated, considered one of the pleasant discoveries at the finals, some players were noted – Ali Parvin and especially Andranik Eskandarian. Like Tunisia, Iran came close to qualifying to the second round – the 'third world' was definitely improving and no longer just making the numbers. Iran was seen as more likely than Tunisia to become regular finalist and may be more than that. In the future. Near future, it was thought.