Amid rain, wind and plummeting temperatures, Iran was warmed yesterday by a single, hugely-significant goal.
Mehdi Taremi’s strike, coolly dispatched early in the second half of their Qatar 2022 qualifier against Iraq, secured a 1-0 win and guaranteed the team’s presence at a sixth FIFA World Cup™.
It also sparked joyous scenes at the Azadi Stadium, where a crowd that included a healthy contingent of female fans helped roar the team to victory.
Celebrations soon followed on the streets of a country shivering through a mid-winter cold snap, as crowds gathered, songs were sung and car horns were sounded.
“I am very happy [because] I could make the Iranian people happy. It’s our pleasure,” said the national team’s Croatian coach, Dragan Skocic. “I would like to congratulate my players as they gave an excellent performance.
“We had some difficulties prior to the match because we missed some players after they got infected with COVID-19, and our European-based players also joined us late.
“It took 15 minutes to find our tempo and then we were the dominant team and created so many chances. We could have scored more than one goal.”
Skocic, who has racked up 13 wins from 14 matches since taking charge in February 2020, also spoke of qualification representing personal vindication.
“I believed in my work from the start, but many underestimated me and didn’t respect me, so I’m very happy because I’ve proved myself,” said the 53-year-old, who coached several Iranian club sides before being appointed to the national team. “I am under contract with Iran until 2023 and my plan is to lead the team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”
The final words, though, went to the hero of the hour, and Taremi kept them short and sweet. The Porto striker, who had been in danger of missing the match after finding himself temporarily stranded en route, amid bad weather in Turkey, dedicated the success to those celebrating in sub-zero temperatures.
“I’m glad,” he said, “that we managed to make people happy by making it into the World Cup.”
Source : FIFA