Portugal qualified for the knockout stages of the World Cup after drawing with Iran who were eliminated as a result. But the European Champions were denied top spot thanks to a stoppage time penalty in a game filled with VAR controversies.
Going in to the final moments of the match it looked like Portugal were to win the group and Iran were going out with the score 1-0 to Portugal thanks to Queresma’s superb goal. But then Iran scored a controversial late penalty, while Spain scored a controversial last minute equalizer against Morocco. This meant Spain had moved top of the group, with Portugal in second before Iran nearly scored again to move top of the group. However the Asian side missed a glorious opportunity as Portugal held on to progress with Spain in a crazy finish to Group B…
The first half was one of little action compared to the drama in the second half. Portugal had more of the possession and more of the chances, but it looked like Iran were going to hold out until half time.
That was until Quaresma, starting his first world cup game opened the scoring on the stroke of half time with a stunning strike using the outside of his foot. Man City’s Bernardo Silva had started the first two matches on the right wing for Portugal, but Quaresma staked a claim for why he should start in the knockout rounds with that sublime effort that put Portugal in a great position.
With Spain level with Morocco at the break, it put Portugal top ahead of Spain by two points and ahead of third placed Iran by four points.
Just six minutes in to the second half, the first controversial VAR decision was given as Ronaldo was brought down in the box and had the chance to give Portugal a commanding lead. The Real Madrid striker had gone down under the challenge of Iran’s Morteza Pouraliganji and, after originally waving away appeals, Enrique Caceres rightly reversed his decision to award the spot-kick after checking VAR. But the decision mattered for very little as Iran keeper Beiranvand saved Ronaldo’s weak effort.
VAR was called upon again not long after as Ronaldo appeared to catch Pouraliganji in the face with a flailing arm. After another long stoppage while he watched replays on the VAR pitch-side TV monitor, the referee deemed it only bad enough for a yellow card.
It then looked like Portugal were to hold out and win the group Iran played a deep cross towards Sardar Azmoun and from close range his knock-down hit the outstretched arm of Portugal defender Cedric Soares, who was jumping to head the ball. Yet again the referee took his time, watching multiple pitch side replays and came to the decision it was a penalty. Ansarifard scored the penalty and while that was going on, Spain had equalized against Morocco meaning Portugal had dropped to 2nd while Iran needed another goal to qualify.
And Iran almost scored that decisive goal to overtake Portugal in the final few seconds of the game. The ball deflected to Taremi inside the area, and he sent his shot into the side netting, where he really should have scored.
Final Thoughts and Looking Ahead
It means that with Spain winning the group they will take on Group A runners up Russia in the Round of 16 on the 1st July at the Luzhniki Stadium. While Portugal have the tougher challenge of facing Uruguay, the winners of Group A on the 30th June at the Fisht Olympic Stadium.
As much as Portugal will just be relieved with qualifying after such a dramatic finish, they will also be frustrated with the decision to award Iran the penalty, meaning they now have to face Uruguay who beat Russia (who they could have played) 3-0 earlier in the day.
Iran on the other hand will look back at the several missed opportunities in the 1-0 defeat to Spain. An equalizer in that would have made everything different for them. As well as that they’ll rue the glorious chance in the last few seconds which was totally wasted. Had they have scored that, they not only would have qualified but they would have won the group…