As was expected, Iran gave decent account of themselves at the FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup. Intent on leaving Rio on a high, the Asian outfit gave Les Bleus a torrid time for long periods of their final group match, and it was only the professional and patient approach of the French that prevented them from coming unstuck.
"I'm very happy with my team's attitude," declared Iran boss Farshad Falahatzadeh. "Considering the way we played, a draw would not have been an unfair result. France were just a bit more clinical than us. But in any case, my team are gradually getting better and I'm sure we'll be back next year, when, I promise you, we'll be even harder to beat.''
When Noel Scirotino's shot shaved the Iranian crossbar in the opening minute, the tone for the match was set: the French clearly did not intend to take this match lightly. Confirmation of their committed approach came 60 seconds later, when Laurent Castro opened the scoring.
But the Iranians were desperate to avoid being cast as sacrificial lambs. After a few minutes of battling to stay afloat, Team Melli launched a piercing counter-attack that resulted in an Abbas Hashempour penalty, which Jean-Marie Aubry did extremely well to turn away. When the first buzzer sounded, Les Bleus were therefore fortunate to possess a three-goal advantage.
During the interval, Eric Cantona's team talk was firm nonetheless, as he urged his players to control the game more effectively. In the minutes that followed, the French were more talkative than dangerous, but the reorganisation seemed to work and the gap between the teams remained the same (4-1).
Realising they had nothing to lose, Iran then opted for all-out attack during the final minutes and gradually clawed their way into the encounter (4-3). But as he has done since the start of the tournament, the world champions' diminutive midfielder Jeremy Basquaise popped up in timely fashion with a double to give the French victory a slightly flattering look.
"Games like this are never straightforward," opined Eric Cantona after the encounter. "But it was important that we took the match seriously rather than thinking about the quarter-finals already.''
Referees: Joao Duarte (BRA), Michele Conti (ITA), Antonio Buaiz (BRA)