EghtesadOnline: Iran national football team, also known as Team Melli, qualified for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after clinching a 2-0 victory against Uzbekistan in the third round of Qualifiers games, late Monday at a fully-packed Azadi Stadium in Tehran. Fans in big numbers celebrated the honor with the team players and crew members after the match in the sprawling stadium and in the streets across the country.
The national team, managed by respected Portuguese head coach Carlos Queiroz, has shown a strong performance in the preliminary round so far, gaining 20 points from eight games and leading Group A. Placed after Iran are South Korea (13 points out of 7 games), Uzbekistan (12 points, 8 games), Syria (8, 7), China (5, 7) and Qatar (4, 7) respectively.
Winning over Uzbekistan, currently 3rd in the group, created an 8-point difference between Iran and the Central Asian team which meant Team Melli has ensured a ticket for the 2018 World Cup, either as the first or second team, with two matches left in the qualifying games.
The top two teams in each of Asia’s two qualifying groups advance automatically to the finals and the teams in third place go through a series of play-offs, Financial Tribune reported.
Now, Iran three-time Asian champion have joined Brazil and host Russia at the 2018 World Cup. In fact, Iran is the second team, after Brazil, which beat Paraguay last week, to have secured a spot among the final 32 teams of the final round. Russia, as the host, is not playing in the qualification games.
Before the game between Iran and Uzbekistan began, both teams observed one minute silence in tribute to the victims of the twin attacks targeting the Iranian parliament building and the mausoleum of Imam Khomeini in Tehran on June 7.
Iranian young forwards Sardar Azmoun, 22, in the first half, and Mehdi Taremi, 24, in the final minutes of the game, scored two goals to give Iran the easiest advance compared to the previous four times it entered the World Cup in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014.
Iran now qualifies directly to the final round while in the past four rounds the national team had faced major trouble and was among the last to join the World Cup.
Team Melli also gained another honor during the current games. They are the only team among all the nations in the qualification rounds in five continents which conceded no goals. That means their unbeaten and clean-sheet run has now stretched to a remarkable 19 months. Furthermore, they have not lost in their 8 matches so far, acquiring 6 wins and only 2 draws. This is also the first time Iran has appeared in two successive World Cups.
Over the Moon
Queiroz is also over the moon. This is the fourth time he has managed a team in the world’s major soccer event. Under him, three national teams have qualified for the World Cup: South Africa in 2002, Portugal in 2010, and Iran in 2014 and 2018.
During their previous four presence in the World Cup, Team Melli never advanced past the group stage. Iran’s only win in the games have been a 2–1 victory against the United States in 1998.
After the Monday night game, President Hassan Rouhani, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and great soccer figures Ali Parvin and Ali Daei and many more congratulated Team Melli’s victory, and all Iranians via messages on their social media pages.
Right after the game’s final whistle was blown, thousands of people from all walks of life poured into the streets across the country to celebrate their team’s entry to the World Cup.
Social media sites showed online video clips of people shouting, waving flags and honking car horns. Some young people draped the national flag over their shoulders, cheering wildly in the streets and crying “Iran, Iran!”
Team Melli is the highest-ranked team in Asia since December 2014 and is currently ranked 30th in the world according to the latest FIFA World Rankings as of June 1.