- Iran pick up their first win at the FIFA U-20 World Cup since the inaugural edition in 1977
- A tight encounter of few chances decided by solitary goal
- A low left-footed strike from Iran’s No9 undid Costa Rica
Mohammad Mehdi Mehdikhani secured an opening win for Iran as his late goal saw off Costa Rica 1-0 in FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017 Group C.
Despite Iran’s fairly well-established FIFA World Cup™ pedigree, having appeared at three in the last 20 years, this was only their third ever outing at U-20 level – and the first of those came in the inaugural tournament. Because of that, you could forgive them for being a tad ring-rusty. In truth though, Costa Rica were not much sharper.
Both struggled to fashion opportunities in a tepid first half. Iran began the brighter of the pair, looking to utilise a distinct height advantage. As time wore on, Costa Rica’s stronger possession game saw them begin to dictate the pace of the match, though a sloppy final ball undermined their chance of fashioning any clear openings.
The pattern continued until the latter stages where Iran first came close from an audacious Omid Norafkan corner, clipping the top of the bar, before the deadlock was broken with nine minutes to go. Unmarked at the far post, Mehdikhani chested down and fired low into the bottom left corner to snatch three points from what looked like a certain stalemate.
It took Iran 40 years to register its only 2nd win in the FIFA Youth World Cup, now known as the FIFA U-21 World Cup.
Despite a few good moves , Costa Rica did not manage a single shot on goal in the match, while the Iranians did shoot on target although none were effective except for the Mehdikhani goal late in the game.
After Iran scored, the habitual problem of Iranian football was evident in their game. Iranian teams from club level all the way to Team Melli , have problems controlling the games when ahead , or as it is commonly know, putting the game to bed. Despite the solid and strong defense by the Iran U-21 team which the skillful Costa Rica’ forwards failed to penetrate during the whole match, their last few minutes were erratic, confusing and quite weak. Both the defenders and midfield players lost the ball in tackles, passed the wrong ball and in general were in disarray with only minutes left of the match.
Thankfully the opponents shooting was not up to scratch and their finishing , a lot to be desired, In reality, Iran should have closed the game in a much better style.
Iran U-21 next match is against Zambia who beat former champions Portugal 2-1 in the earlier game in the same group.
1 N.MIRZAZAD (GK) 2 A.SHAHSAVARI ; 3 M.DERAKHSHANMEHR ; 5 N.TAHERI ; 6 M.SOLTANI (65′ N. MOKHTARI); 8 A.SHOJAEI (79′ A. RAZZAGHPOUR) ; 9 M.MEHDIKHANI ; 10 R.SHEKARI ; 11 R.JAFARI (90′ S, KHADEMPOUR); 16 O. NORAFKAN (C) ; 20 A.AGHASI
13 PINEDA. E (GK) ; 2 MESEN. D ; 4 SMITH. I ; 5 GONZALEZ .E; 6 HERNANDEZ. L (C) ; 8 MARIN. J ; 10 MARTINEZ. J ; 11 LEAL. R ; 19 SALINAS. Y; 20 JUAREZ. E ; 21 TORRES. G