Iran take top spot in Group D
Iran managed to take top spot in Group D after a stalemate against Iraq. The battle of the titans was expected to be the first real test for both teams but it turned out to be a tame affair. While both teams had already qualified to the next round there was first place to play for and that spot may have big implications.
Iraq struggled in the first half as Iran was in control and put Iraq on the back heal. In the 12th minute Sardar Azmoun met a cross with his head but narrowly missed the target. It was the best chance of the half for Iran until the 42nd minute when Alireza Jahanbaksh missed a glorious opportunity from inside the box.
In addition to a number of penalty claims by the Iranian team a foul by Saman Ghoddos highlighted the tense nature of the match. Ghoddos seemed to stomp on the Iraqi player and the experience Uzbek referee pulled out the yellow card. While the Iraqi’s were pushing for a red it did not appear that Ghoddos had malicious intent.
Adjustments at half time paid off for the Iraqi team resulting in a better performance in the second half for the Iraqi’s. The best opportunity of the match for Iraq came in the 77th minute when Alaa Abbas headed the ball towards top corner of the Iranian goal. It looked like a certain goal until Iranian keeper Alireza Beiranvand interfered to push the ball over. It was a magnificant save by Beiranvand and the highlight of the match.
A scoreless draw may have been the appropriate score for the day but both teams will have to improve if they seek to go far in the tournament. Iran now awaits the conclusion of the group phase to find out which third place team it will face. Iraq is also waiting to find out who will win Group E, Qatar or Saudi Arabia.
Iran has is now assured that it will not face Australia or South Korea until the final match. If Japan were to finish second in group F then Iran would also avoid Japan until the final. This outcome would be an optimal outcome. Regardless of the path to the final Iran will have to improve if they are to win the cup.