Mehdi Taremi was on target as Iran confirmed their spot in the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar with a 1-0 victory over Iraq at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Thursday.
Taremi fires Iran into 2022 World Cup finals with win over Iraq
Forward Mehdi Taremi (R) celebrates his goal which sent Iran into the 2022 World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Iraq at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran.
Porto forward Taremi scored the winner after 48 minutes to send Iran through to a World Cup finals for the sixth time, and third in a row.
Iran are unbeaten in the third stage of qualifying, having won six of their seven matches, with a draw against South Korea.
Team Melli consolidated their position on top of the Group A table with 19 points, two points ahead of South Korea.
They extended their impressive unbeaten run since Croatian head coach Dragan Skocic took over in February 2020, with 11 wins and one draw.
On Thursday, they recorded their second win over Iraq on the road to Qatar.
The Iraqis struggled for momentum and failed to break down the famed Iranian defence, with the hosts clearly the dominant side on front of their home fans.
Taremi, who only arrived in Tehran on Thursday, picked up an Alireza Jahanbaksh assist after the break sending in a right-footed shot from inside the box.
Both teams were hit by the absence of players following positive tests for Covid-19.
Sardar Azmoun, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen, was among the five Iranian players missing, along with eight Iraqi players.
Iran have played in the World Cup finals five times in the past – in 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014 and 2018 – while Iraq's last and only participation was in Mexico 1986.
Iran have never gone beyond the group stage in the tournament.
Following the victory, Iranian players on the pitch carried big flags, saluted fans and took victory photos.
There were some fireworks going off with loud cheers from spectators as women were allowed entry to an Iran football match for the first time since October 2019.
At the exit of the stadium, young people were jumping, cheering, waving flags and honking with vuvuzelaz.
'We are happy, we are going to the world cup', 'this is our team, these are the lions', they chanted.
"It was our first time in the stadium but luckily our team won," said Ms. Abdi who had Iranian flag painted on her face and was accompanied with her daughter.
"It was perfect, now our voice is gone," said flag-carrying students Kimia and Hasti who were wearing blue hoodies, adding that "our players played very well in this (cold) weather."
"It was our first time in the stadium but we hope we can be allowed to attend matches of Perspolis FC and Esteghlal FC as well," a group of three jubilant girls said, adding that "the presence of women definitely had an impact on the result of the match."
There was heavy traffic around the stadium with cars honking and people cheering.
People were also celebrating in other streets of the capital under light rain and freezing windy temperatures.
Similar celebratory events were held in a number of other Iranian cities.