News ID: 319704
Published: 1249 GMT January 28, 2022

Taremi on target as Iran beats Iraq to ease into World Cup finals

Taremi on target as Iran beats Iraq to ease into World Cup finals

Iran’s Mehdi Taremi celebrates after scoring the winner during a 1-0 victory over Iraq at the Azadi Stadium, Tehran, Iran, on January 27, 2022.

Sports Desk

Mehdi Taremi bagged a second-half winner as Iran edged Iraq 1-0 at Tehran’s Azadi Stadium on Thursday to secure an easy qualification for the 2022 World Cup – starting Nov. 21 in Qatar.

A restricted crowd of some 10,000 Iranians – including 2,000 women – was allowed to watch the match from the stands as a sixth win in seven outings saw Dragan Skocic’s men retain a two-point lead over South Korea – 10 points clear of third-placed UAE – on top of Group A of the Asian qualifiers with three games to spare.

With the top two directly qualifying for the showdown in Qatar, Iran became the 14th team – only the second Asian after the host – to book a berth in the finals draw on April 3.

Iraq, which could still finish third and advance into the continental playoff, had Fahad Talib to thank for the goalless result by the end of the first half as the 27-year-old keeper made back-to-back saves to deny Iranian skipper Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Taremi, while keeping out efforts by Vahid Amiri and Ali Qolizadeh in one-on-one situations.

However, it took the host only three minutes into the second period to break the deadlock.

Feyenoord midfielder Jahanbakhsh found Taremi behind the visitor’s backline with a pinpoint through ball, before Porto striker turned goalwards and wrong-footed Talib with a side-footed strike.

It was a second goal for Taremi, who only joined up with the squad in the early hours of Thursday due to a flight cancelation form Istanbul, in a World Cup qualification decider, after he scored the second in a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan – also at the Azadi Stadium – in November 2017 to seal a spot for the country at the main event in Russia the following year.

For Skocic, who will now lead his team into the dead rubber against the UAE on Tuesday, and the double header against South Korea and Lebanon in late March, the result rounded off an impressive qualification that started with underestimation and scrutiny.


Future plans


Skocic said he had proved the doubters wrong by turning around the team's fortunes and securing a spot at the World Cup, and the Croat fully intends to be at the helm during the finals, Reuters reported.

"I believed in my work from the first but many underestimated me and didn't respect me but I'm very happy because I've proved myself," the Croatian said after the game.

"I am under contract with Iran Football Federation until 2023 and my plan is to lead Iran in the World Cup."

Skocic spent eight years working in club football in Iran before taking charge of the national team in February 2020, replacing Marc Wilmots.

The Iranians struggled during Wilmots' seven-month tenure, with the former Belgium coach leading the team to losses against Iraq and Bahrain that put progress to the third phase of the qualifiers in peril.

Skocic made an immediate impact with Iran, winning 10 and drawing one of the 11 qualifiers since the 53-year-old's appointment – a form that secured the Asian powerhouse’s sixth World Cup appearance.


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