Iran vs Portugal: World Cup 2018 Group B match report


The outcome of this game is simple: Portugal achieved the draw they required against Iran to go through the the Last 16 of the World Cup. The story of the game – of which the action of the Spain-Morocco match cannot be ignored – was far from simple, and pulled emotions of at least three of the four nations all over the place.

Portugal patience

For much of the ninety minutes in Mordovia, Fernando Santos’ men were in control. Iran posed the occasional threat but had little prolonged possession, seemingly happy to sit deep, frustrate their opponents, and go long whenever the chance presented itself. It was the Asian side that needed the three points to qualify for the knockout phase, while a draw suited Portugal – because they didn’t expect their other rivals for top spot in the group to drop the ball against already-eliminated Morocco.

Quaresma curler

The first half was lively enough and the pattern of play was consistent. The European champions looked a better unit than they had done on the previous two outingsand probed for the opening, appearing relaxed that they had what it took to do the job required. Crosses were being thrown in from both sides – wingers Quaresma and Joao Mario encouraged to continue doing so after some less-than convincing handling from Beiranvand. And it was from a good crossing opportunity that the goal came. As the clock ticked into added time in the first half, Quaresma stepped inside the right-hand section of the area and struck it sweetly with the outside of his right foot, allowing a gentle curl to evade the diving, oustretched Iranian stopper, and bringing it nicely inside the far post.

Iran v Portugal: Group B – 2018 FIFA World Cup RussiaSweet strike | Ricardo Quaresma of Portugal scores. Hector Vivas (Getty Images)

Cristiano’s penalty pain

With two goals now required for Iran to qualify, many expected the Queiroz team-talk to be more about giving it their all in an attempt, no matter how in vain that may prove to be. The second period though followed a similar pattern to the first, if anything with Portugal having more control. And a VAR-assisted penalty for Cristiano to slot home would have settled everything on the 51st minute. Beiranvand had other ideas and got down sharply to deny the Real Madrid man.

Late VAR decision for Iran

Although the penalty miss was disappointing for Portugal, who must have been hearing noises about Morocco doing them a favour in another part of Russia, the flow of the game remained much the same. That was until the final minutes. Iran moved their unit a few metres forward and attacks were starting to include more bodies in white shirts in the final third. But just as it looked to be too late, a crossed ball fell onto Cedric Soares’ arm and VAR was brought in to help the referee make his decision. The ninety minutes were up. The finger pointed to the spot.

Karim Ansarifard showed class as he fired the dead ball into the top right corner, giving a rarely-troubled Rui Patricio no chance. At exactly the same time, Spain had a disallowed equaliser overturned with VAR’s help, and now with both Iberian sides level on points, Spain would top the group having scored a goal more. There was still time for one heart-stopping moment as Taremi burst into the Portugal box and struck the ball into the side netting. Had he scored, Iran would be taking Portugal’s place (and topping the group). He didn’t so Cristiano and co. have a Last 16 match against Group A winners Uruguay.

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