Iran head coach Mohammad Nazemasharieh said his team had underestimated Uzbekistan in the final minutes despite overcoming the Asian opponent to advance into the FIFA Futsal World Cup quarterfinals.
A thrilling contest – the highest-scoring knockout game in World Cup history – in Vilnius, Lithuania, on Friday saw Iran edge past Uzbekistan 9-8.
Seyyed Ahamd Abbasi scored Iran’s ninth goal of the night to give the 12-time Asian champion a three-goal lead with three minutes left on the clock.
Just when Iran seemed to have rounded off the victory, Anaskhon Rakhmatov and Ilhomjon Hamroev netted twice in the space of a minute, with the latter coming with 25 seconds remaining, but Nazemasharieh’s men held on to seal a place in Monday’s last-eight encounter against Kazakhstan.
Uzbekistan – beaten by Iran at the AFC Asian Cup final on four occasions – first set the alarm bells ringing late in the first half when it scored twice to level the tie at 3-3.
When asked if he ordered his side to pull back in the closing stages of the two periods, Nazemasharieh said, “I would never do that, not even against the best teams in the world. It’s never been our approach to a game, even against world champion Brazil [in the previous World Cup].
“We played some great futsal early in the second half but when Uzbekistan conducted power-play my players sat back a bit, whereas they should have kept up the momentum. We thought the game is over and Uzbekistan managed to pull a couple of goals back.
“This match was a valuable experience for us and we’ll have to learn from our mistakes,” added the Iranian.
It was a seventh victory over Uzbekistan – in as many competitive games – for Iran; however, the Central Asian side delivered a performance worthy of the global showpiece.
“We knew Uzbekistan would be most dangerous on set pieces and we all saw how good they were in that respect. Uzbekistan is best-known for its players’ movement all over the pitch throughout the game, but, in fairness to our players, we outplayed them in covering distances,” Nazemasharieh said.
Asked about Iran’s next opponent, Nazemasharieh said, “Kazakhstan plays simple and, at the same time, practical futsal. They have two or three players with Brazilian origins. Their biggest advantage is that they know how to get their keeper involved in ball possession.”
Iranian manager added that Farhad Fakhim suffered a minor knee injury against Uzbekistan but is expected to be fit for the Monday’s game.