Taremi and Skocic savour Iran’s success

  • IR Iran qualified for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ with a 1-0 win over Iraq

  • Star striker Mehdi Taremi’s goal sparked delirious celebrations

  • Coach Dragan Skocic spoke of having “proved himself” with the achievement

Amid rain, wind and plummeting temperatures, Iran was warmed yesterday by a single, hugely-significant goal.

Mehdi Taremi’s strike, coolly dispatched early in the second half of their Qatar 2022 qualifier against Iraq, secured a 1-0 win and guaranteed the team’s presence at a sixth FIFA World Cup™.

It also sparked joyous scenes at the Azadi Stadium, where a crowd that included a healthy contingent of female fans helped roar the team to victory.

Celebrations soon followed on the streets of a country shivering through a mid-winter cold snap, as crowds gathered, songs were sung and car horns were sounded.

TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 27: Iranian fans react during FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Iran v Iraq at Azadi Stadium on January 27, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)

"I am very happy [because] I could make the Iranian people happy. It’s our pleasure," said the national team’s Croatian coach, Dragan Skocic. “I would like to congratulate my players as they gave an excellent performance.

"We had some difficulties prior to the match because we missed some players after they got infected with COVID-19, and our European-based players also joined us late.

"It took 15 minutes to find our tempo and then we were the dominant team and created so many chances. We could have scored more than one goal."

Iran's players celebrate with their fans after qualifying for the 2022 Qatar World Cup after their win against Iraq in the Asian Qualifiers football match at the Azadi Sports Complex in the capital Tehran, on January 27, 2022. (Photo by Atta KENARE / AFP) (Photo by ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images)

Skocic, who has racked up 13 wins from 14 matches since taking charge in February 2020, also spoke of qualification representing personal vindication.

“I believed in my work from the start, but many underestimated me and didn’t respect me, so I’m very happy because I’ve proved myself,” said the 53-year-old, who coached several Iranian club sides before being appointed to the national team. “I am under contract with Iran until 2023 and my plan is to lead the team at the 2022 FIFA World Cup.”

The final words, though, went to the hero of the hour, and Taremi kept them short and sweet. The Porto striker, who had been in danger of missing the match after finding himself temporarily stranded en route, amid bad weather in Turkey, dedicated the success to those celebrating in sub-zero temperatures.

“I’m glad,” he said, “that we managed to make people happy by making it into the World Cup.”

TEHRAN, IRAN - JANUARY 27: Hossein Kanani and Samam Ghodoos celebrate after the match during FIFA World Cup Qualifier match between Iran v Iraq at Azadi Stadium on January 27, 2022 in Tehran, Iran. (Photo by Amin Mohammad Jamali/Getty Images)