Turkey may have run out 4-2 winners over Iran in their tournament opener however it was the unfancied west Asians that impressed through their pace and skills, with their diminutive forward Shahin Aflaki the most notable. Throughout the game, the nimble attacker remained the team’s livewire scoring one goal in the opening half and seeing a second-half effort come back off the crossbar in the later stages.
Turkey took an early lead through Eda Karatas inside six minutes but Eda Duran scored an own goal to gift Iran the equaliser seven minutes later. Behnaz Taherkhani was fouled by a Turkey defender in front of the area then it was Aflaki’s turn to shine. From the resultant free-kick, the pocket-sized 155cm striker swung a sublime shot past the goalkeeper to put her side ahead.
After Turkey came from behind to restore their lead with an own goal from Iran and a goal by Feride Serin, Iran had a golden chance to level when Aflaki rocked the crossbar with a powerful long-distance shot. Aflaki and her Iran team-mates threw everything forward in the dying minutes but Kubra Aydin scored in added time to seal the opening win for the Europeans.
Late goals costly
“We played a good game, only we lost it,” the softly-spoken former Futsal player from Shiraz City told FIFA.com, “Our defender Sharshin Kamangar got injured in the second half and this cost us as afterwards Turkey scored twice late on.”
Despite her team’s loss, Aflaki dazzled the media and fans alike through her pacy ran and eye for goal, something she attributed to hard practice. “We had an intensive training camp in the tournament build-up and we all prepared hard. I spent a lot of time on skill training including the free-kick taking,” she added.
“She knows Beckham and his techniques,” Abolfazl Khodabandehl, one of the Iran coaching staff, chimed in when he urged her to leave for the team coach. “So she can learn and use it when it matters," he quipped. Khodabandehl may only be joking but on this display future opponents will underestimate Aflaki at their peril.