The aluminum saves for Wales several times, but the decisive goal is still scored well into the eternal stoppage time: Iran deservedly wins a close game and can hope to advance. Superstar Gareth Bale can't save his team this time.
Iran's national soccer team celebrated an acclaimed last-minute victory at the World Cup in Qatar under great political and sporting pressure. Coach Carlos Queiroz's team won the second group match against Wales 2-0 (0-0) thanks to goals from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian in the eighth and eleventh minute of injury time. Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey saw a red card in the 86th minute after an emergency stop outside the box against Mehdi Taremi.
Both teams still have chances to advance. In front of 40,875 spectators in Al-Rajjan's Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, the Iranian players didn't remain silent this time during the national anthem, but visibly moved their lips with serious expressions. Most whistles in the arena fell silent as the video wall showed a heartbreakingly crying elderly fan holding an Iranian flag.
The pressure on the players, who also have to fear for the well-being of their families at home, had probably become too great: before the 2: 6 against England they had listened silently to the sounds. As a result, threats of drastic government sanctions were reported. For weeks, Iran has been rocked by the worst protests in decades. The death of a young woman in police custody had triggered this, and the security apparatus reacted with extreme severity.
Before the match, it was announced that former Iranian international Voria Ghafouri had been arrested on Thursday, according to the pro-government news agency Tasnim. The 35-year-old defender is accused of propaganda against the Iranian political system and insulting the national team, it said. This time, Tasnim credited the players for singing the anthem.
Iran had failed in all previous five World Cup participations in the preliminary round. The team got off to a stormy start against the Welsh - and without Ali Beiranvand, who suffered a head injury. The 30-year-old, who suffered a concussion in the opening game, was only on the bench. Instead, Hossein Hosseini, who was substituted on against England, began. According to information from the German Press Agency, FIFA had informed the Iranian association that the goalkeeper should not play. However, the final decision on deployment rested with the Iranian association.
Ali Gholizadeh had Iran fans cheering for his goal after 15 minutes, but the goal was ruled offside following a video evidence decision. The Welsh had drawn 1-1 against the USA in their first group game. The 2016 European Championship semi-finalist got into a hectic rush against the Iranians from the start.
Leverkusen's Sardar Azmoun also kept the opposing defense busy. He and fellow striker Gholizadeh each hit the post within seconds of the break. Wales superstar Bale, on the other hand, went under for almost the entire game. In the end it got hectic. Hennessey saw the red card because he was clearly late against Taremi with a straight leg - a clear red card. Referee Mario Escobar added nine minutes of stoppage time. The Iranians tried everything again - and were rewarded very late.