Iran kicked off its campaign at the 2021 FIFA Futsal World Cup with a victory, beating Serbia 3-2 on Tuesday in Group F of the competition in Vilnius, the capital city of Lithuania.
Seeking to emulate their third-spot finish in the 2016 edition, Mohammad Nazemasharieh’s men started right on the front foot before Hamid Ahmadi opened the account for the 12-time Asian champion in the fourth minute, firing into the roof of the net from distance.
Farhad Fakhim doubled Iran’s lead seconds later, tapping in a Mohammadreza Sang-Sefidi’s corner-kick.
However, it proved to be a game of mixed fortunes for Iranian scorer Ahamadi, who received his marching orders shortly afterwards with a second yellow card.
The Iranians kept dominating the first period, but still needed goalkeeper Alireza Samimi to produce some heroic saves before Milos Stojkovic eventually pulled one back for the Serbians with two minutes before the interval.
Iran blew several chances to round off the victory until the 37th minute when Ahmad Esmaeilpour restored the two-goal advantage as his coolly-taken effort found the bottom-left corner.
Dragan Tomic again reduced the deficit to one but it proved too little too late as the victory saw Iran stand second in the group, trailing defending champion Argentina, which thrashed USA 11-0 later on the night.
Iranian head coach Nazemasharieh reveled in the victory in a tough opener.
“The first game is always important. We knew Serbia would be a strong opponent, and Ahmadi’s red card made things even harder for us in the first half,” Nazemasharieh told Mehr News Agency.
“Ahmadi made a childish mistake, but we have to accept that the pressure and intensity of the game was so high,” added the Iranian.
When asked why his team was a bit nervous in the first half, Nazemasharieh said, “Ahmadi’s sending off changed our game plans and caused us problems, not to mention it was our first game in the tournament. But my players put in all their efforts and managed to control the game and I’m so happy that we left the pitch with the tree points.
“Serbia has improved significantly since hosting the European championship [in 2016] and I have to praise my players for their performance today,” Nazemasharieh added.
Iran will next face USA on Friday, before squaring off against Argentina on Monday.