When the players jumped onto the pitch of the Bin Ali Stadium in Doha, it seemed that two games were about to begin. A very important one and another in which Iran and Welsh played a good part of their options to continue in the World Cup. The most important game only lasted two or three minutes. The Persian players, lined up, prepared to listen to the official anthem of their country, adopted in 1990 after the death of Ayatollah Khomeini. His refusal to sing the lyrics four days ago caused a huge stir around the world and today they were known under all the lights.
Perhaps to relieve themselves of pressure or perhaps out of fear of reprisals, the soccer players sang the verses, which they concluded by making wishes for the permanence and eternity of the Islamic Republic of Iran. They did not do it exultantly, as the Welsh shouted theirs, but listlessly and sadly, without any epic. Sardar Azmoun, Bayer Leverkusen striker, one of the most active against the repression against the protests and the most applauded by the Iranian public present at the Bin Ali stadium, was not seen moving his mouth.
Hennessey, Davies, Mepham, Rodon, Williams, Roberts (Johnson, m.57), Ramsey (Ward, m. 87), Ampadu (Allen, m. 77), Wilson (James, m.57), Bale, Moore.
H. Hosseini; Mohammadi, Pouraliganji, M. Hosseini, Hajsafi (Torabi, m. 77), Rezaeian, Ezatolahi (Karimi, m.81), Gholizadeh (Jahanbakhsh, m. 77), Noorollahi (Cheshmi, m.77), Taremi, Azmoun ( Ansarifard, m. 67).
Cheshmi (m. 90+8), Rezaeian (m. 90+9)
Mario Alberto Escobar (Guatemala). He showed Rodon, Rezaeian and Jahanbakhsh yellow and Hennessey red.
Ahmad Bin Ali.
And that’s how that match ended for today, the most important match: the Persian players, for the most part, moved their lips. In reality, this is a very long game, much longer than expected, which is not over yet. It began two months ago, when the young Masha Amini died after being arrested by the Moral Police, accused of wearing the veil improperly, and she is still on the streets of Tehran, Isfahan, Shiraz, and all Iranian cities. . At the moment the ayatollahs are winning, who have imprisoned more than 15,000 people and have already begun to issue the first death sentences for “attacking the State”, but there are signs that the population, already fed up with so many prohibitions, is Resisting to concede a new defeat.
From the other match, from the less important match, it should be noted that Iran won with two goals in added time and deserved to have done so earlier. Wales dominated throughout the first half and a good part of the second, as the statistics point out, although it was a lack of enthusiasm and without really knowing what to do with it. Not even the passion for hyperbole of the Welsh fans, who celebrate as a very clear occasion any free kick taken from more than forty meters, hides the pedestrian reality of a team that lives better in galloping than in control. The Iranians, who seemed to forget their anthems as soon as the ball got rolling, applied themselves to holding down their opponent on defense while relying on Azmoun’s attacking cunning. The effervescent Leverkusen striker had several chances, some of which he concocted for himself, although the main one came early in the second half when he smashed a ball off the post after a vibrant run down the right. The ball, repelled, fell to Gholizadeh, whose missile hit the other post. Finally, Hennessey stopped Taremi’s agonizing final shot.
The game dragged on for Wales, with Bale floating across the field like a ghost from another time and the other players without spark to spice up the game. Iran, on the other hand, saw the rival goal closer every time, even when Azmoun withdrew, exhausted, and Queiroz decided to take advantage to move the bench like someone who shakes an apple tree. The play of the match happened in the 84th minute, one after Wales had stroked the opener. The ball came running to Taremi and Hennessey stormed out, with the sole intention of becoming a wall. The referee whistled the foul and took it yellow, but the VAR images, frozen, looked like they were taken from a kung fu movie, so Escobar decided to rectify his first decision and send off the Welsh goalkeeper. Ramsey went to the bench so that, in his place, the substitute goalkeeper, Danny Ward, accessed the field.
Iran’s appetite had been whetted and Wales looked like a limp side, unable to stop the onslaught of the Persian forwards. In added time, when Bale and his team were already dreaming of continuing to add another point, even if it was in fits and starts, Cheshmi picked up a clearance on the edge of the area, adjusted his leg and released a shell that Ward could not reach. With Wales knocked out, the Persian team still had time to round off their victory with a second goal thanks to a subtle touch from Rezaeian.
After the resounding crash against England, the Iranian soccer team looks to the future with optimism today. The future of the country…, that is something else.