On Friday, Team Melli scored late goals by Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian in the 99th and 101st minutes, respectively, after showcasing a solid football performance at Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium. The dramatic victory gave the team three needed points to keep their hopes alive for advancing to the knock-out round.
There has been growing pressure on the Iranian players over the past few weeks. The trend of pressure first sought to eliminate Team Melli from the World Cup based on unjustified political grounds. It then tilted toward demoralizing the players so as to distract their focus on the games.
Thousands of Iranians across the country took to the streets after the Friday match to celebrate the historic win. Iran’s flags fluttered everywhere.
Some experts believe the anti-Iranian media propaganda is part of a plot to undermine national unity in Iran amid foreign-backed riots in the country.
‘Gift to all fans’
Addressing a press conference after the game, Manager Carlos Queiroz said the victory was a gift to all Iranian fans. “This game was a gift to the Iran fans: from north, south, east and west, this was a gift to them. It was a winning day for football.”
He said the team “deserved to win.” This was an opportunity, he said, to “get back to credibility” after the tough 6-2 loss against England at the opener.
“Everything is open in the group until the last round, what is important is that we have our goals and dreams in our hands.”
Felicitations pouring in
Numerous other Iranian officials have released messages on the dramatic win, congratulating the team and the Iranian nation.
President Ebrahim Raeisi thanked Team Melli’s players and the staff for “putting your all and bringing the sweetness of victory to the Iranian people.”
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf facilitated the “stunning” victory of the team to the Iranian people. Qalibaf named unity and solidarity of the team and the Iranian nation as the reason behind this win, “which proved to the world that there is no end to the unity of the Iranian nation and that the holy flag of this country will always remain hoisted.”
Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian also took to Twitter to congratulate the victory. Addressing the players, he wrote, “You managed to win this battle by (showing) solidarity, effort, and relying on God.”
“Long live powerful Iran.”
Team Melli will take on the United States on Tuesday in the last match of the group stage. The last encounter between the two teams goes back to the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France, where the Iranian side gained a historic 2-1 win.