The Iranians pulled off a bit of history by finishing top of Group C, the first time a young Team Melli reached past the first round of a FIFA U-17 finals. Colombia finished second with their dazzling array of midfield talent and South American style, while the Netherlands came up short and went out alongside bottom side Gambia.
The final standings
1. Iran (7 points)
2. Colombia (5)
3. Netherlands (3)
4. Gambia (1)
Argentina-Colombia, Ijebu-Ode, Wednesday 4 November, 16:00 (local time)
Iran- Uruguay, Calabar, Thursday 5 November, 19:00 (local time)
The tale of the teams
Iran had heavy expectation on their shoulders coming into the group, having been crowned champions of Asia a year earlier. They came out flying in their opener, beating the nine men of Gambia by a simple-enough 2-0 scoreline. Their second match - which required a stoppage of some 60-plus minutes due to rain - was a more complicated matter and they were lucky to escape with a 0-0 draw against the talented Colombians. They hit their stride in their third match, travelling to Enugu and beating the Dutch to finish the section with seven points and no goals conceded.
Colombia - who looked the most technically gifted side of the Calabar-based group - started like a house on fire, disposing of the Netherlands 2-1. After their goalless draw with the section-winning Iranians, they went off the boil a bit and were in real danger of losing to Gambia after going down 2-0 in their last match. In the end a 2-2 draw was enough to see them through. The Dutch, for their part, failed to produce any real quality and went out after picking up only three points from a win over last-place Gambia, who needed to change the vast majority of their squad on the eve of the finals because of concerns over the MRI age tests.
Needing a win in their final match to have any hopes of reaching the knockout rounds, a late penalty kick - with the Gambians leading 2-1 - threatened to end their dreams. Goalkeeper Baka Ceesay, who was only playing in his first game of the finals, thought he'd saved the day by diving away the spot kick by Gustavo Cuellar. But referee Howard Webb ordered the kick re-taken, and the Colombian midfield maestro made no mistake the second time. At the final whistle of the 2-2 draw, the net-minder cried wild tears on the pitch as his team-mates tried to pull him back together
Raging storm slows Cafeteros
The attacking trio of Stiveen Mendoza, Cuellar and Wilson Cuero had the Colombians looking like potential world-beaters in the first half of their second game against Iran. Unfortunately for them, the dizzying speed and ball movement after the pitch was a sodden mess due to a rainstorm that caused the game to be suspended for over an hour. They never found their rhythm again, drawing that one and their last game both.
Iran open with a howler
Iran were having trouble scoring in their first game against ten-man Gambia as half-time approached. However, a moment of horror for No1 Ousman Darboe, who fluffed a basic free-kick out from the back, saw the ball fall right to the foot of the deadly Payam Sadeghian. The captain made no mistake, curling the ball around and into the top corner of an open goal to send Iran off on their winning ways.
Netherlands' Turkish delight
The Dutch arrived in Calabar with a big reputation, but did little to justify their tags as probable section favourites. Picking up only three points after as many games, the Oranje's only real shining star was creative Arsenal-based midfielder Oguzhan Ozyakup, who did his level best to steer the Europeans toward the knockout stages. Despite his efforts, the silky captain was unable to keep his side from crashing out at the first hurdle.
0 - The number of goals that Iran conceded in their three Group C games, two in Calabar and one in Enugu. This is the first time an Asian side has ever pulled off such a feat of stinginess at a FIFA U-17 World Cup.
"It is an honour for us to win this group because the Netherlands are at the top of world football. It is an honour for me and my players to have won out and it is my best experience as a coach so far." Ali Doustimehr, Iran coach