Iran have taken another major step towards reaching the last 16 with a hard-fought 2-1 win over Morocco at Bangkok’s Huamark Indoor Stadium. Goals from Ali Hassanzadeh and Afshin Kameni secured the points for Ali Sanei’s side, who now only need a point in their final Group B match against Panama be guaranteed a top two spot and a place in the knockout rounds.
Iran were heavy favourites to follow up their 2-2 draw over Spain with victory in this match and they certainly dominated the play, monopolising possession and attempting four efforts on target for every one of Morocco. However, the north Africans proved a tough nut to crack and, when the breakthrough finally did arrive in the last minute of the first half, it was from the penalty spot.
Ali Hassanzadeh dispatched the kick in style, sending Rabie Zaari the wrong way with a powerful right-foot shot, but his joy was to be shortlived. Iran’s lead lasted just 11 seconds, in fact, with Morocco constructing an incisive counter-attack that culminated in Youssef Al Mazray slotting home the equaliser from close range.
The second half repeated the same pattern, with determined defending and inspired goalkeeping from Zaari denying Iran the goals their territorial supremacy merited. However, the Moroccans’ resistance was eventually worn down with just under eight minutes remaining, when Afshin Kameni chipped the ball over the grounded Zaari from close range.
“Morocco played well today, much better than the last time we played each other, and in the first half we missed too many chances. Psychologically that put our players under pressure until we scored the second goal," Ali Sanei, Iran coach.
“I wouldn’t say I’m happy with the way we played, but I’m satisfied – at least with some of my players’ performances. We were certainly more organised in this match than we were against Panama. We will now go into our final match against Spain looking to give the best impression of Moroccan futsal,” Hicham Dguig, Morocco coach.