Category: World Cup 2018

Faghani ensures Iran’s presence in the FIFA World Cup 2018

Alireza Faghani has been awarded his third FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 match.

The top Iranian referee will be in the centre of the action for the match between Argentina and France in round 16 of the competition. Faghani has already refereed two matches in the tournament.

In both his showing , the 40 years old Faghani, who was born on 21 March 1978 in Kashmar, a city near Mashhad, delivered excellent performance in the two difficult matches. Faghani would be refereeing his 4th ex FIFA World Cup winners when the likes of Messi and Pogba meet in Kazan on 30th June.

2018 FIFA World Cup – Russia
Date Match Venue Round
17 June 2018  Germany –  Mexico Moscow Group stage
27 June 2018  Serbia –  Brazil Moscow Group stage
30 June 2018  France –  Argentina Kazan Round of 16

Faghani became a FIFA referee in 2008, only a year after officiating in the top flight league in Iran. soon after Faghani moved up the ladder quite rapidly in Asia. After only one year of international experience Faghani took charge of the 2009 AFC President’s Cup Final played between Regar-TadAZ Tursunzoda and Dordoi-Dynamo Naryn which was won 2–0 by the hosts. A year later he was again in charge of a final but this time it was a much more important final in the 2010 AFC Challenge Cup where the winner qualified for the 2011 AFC Asian Cup.

He was named as the fourth referee for the opening match of the 2014 FIFA World Cup between Brazil and Croatia. He also refereed the 2014 AFC Champions League Final first leg match between Al-Hilal and Western Sydney Wanderers. Faghani was one of the officials of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup, refereeing his first match in Group B between Saudi Arabia and China that ended 0–1. Faghani awarded Saudi Arabia a penalty kick but Naif Hazazi missed it.

He reached a significant milestone when he was awarded the refereeing of the 2015 AFC Asian Cup Final, between South Korea and Australia. Faghani was the referee in the 2015 FIFA Club World Cup Final between Club Atlético River Plate and FC Barcelona. Perhaps even more important milestone  was the 2016 Olympic football final match between host Brazil and Germany.

Faghani was referee in six matches of the 2017 Liga 1 in Indonesia and two matches of the 2017 FIFA Confederations Cup in Russia. In the semi final match between Portugal and Chile he caused controversy by not calling a penalty on Chile’s favor, refusing to use the recently implemented Video assistant referee.

Shock as Azmoun quits Team Melli in protest

Sardar Azmoun , the golden boy of Iran’s football has shockingly announced that he has quite Team Melli after arriving home from the World Cup.

After failing to score in 3 matches and playing below expectation, Azmoun was subject to criticism by section of the fans however some went way beyond the bound of decency by calling him names and using profanities.

Azmoun decided to quit on that basis and has published a message in his social media page declaring his decision. The Rubin Kazan player mentioned in his statement that he is not ready to be subjected to such insults against himself and his parents while trying to do his best for the country.

Despite his poor showing in Russia, Azmoun remain the best forward that Team Melli has with a brilliant scoring record. Perhaps he needs a cooling down period before he reverses his emotional decision.


The sense of Déjà vu

The sense of Déjà vu was overwhelming by the end of the match against Portugal.

Another brilliant performance by Team Melli boys, another close call, another if only that Taremi ball was a few inches to the right…. But at the end, it counted for nothing more than a brave performance that culminated to nothing for Team Melli.

What is left are sweet memories and some unforgettable moments that will linger in our memories until, at least, the next World Cup in Qatar. That save by Biranvand will stay with us a bit longer we suspect. Karim Ansarifard’s unstoppable penalty in the dying minutes in the roof of the net, was another sweet one. The tears of some players at the end of the game was touching and inspiring too.

There are also those bitter memories. How on earth that violent conduct play of Cristiano Ronaldo against Pouraliganji was not a red card, and especially after the referee used VAR and took his sweet time,  is beyond any logic. Elbowing an important is a straight red card, unless the game rules were changed before yesterday’s game. The Paraguay referee decided in his wisdom that it warranted a yellow card only. No doubt the name of Cristiano Ronaldo had much to do with that decision. Peer pressure by FIFA hierarchy and their fear of losing the best players in the tournament was playing at the back of the referee’s mind too when he swapped his red with yellow!

Favoritism was everywhere; the media was one of them too. The bias towards the more famous and household teams was blatant and widespread. Against Portugal, they complained about the penalty call awarded to Iran, yet the violent conduct of Ronaldo elbowing Pouraliganji m a definite red card offense, received way less attention!!

Ronaldo VAR assisted penalty decision was blessed by the media, despite the minimum of contacts between Ezatolahi and Ronaldo. Interestingly, the ref was close to the scene and waved play on, however, insistence of Ronaldo for a VAR, meant that the penalty was a foregone conclusion.

No matter how much you ridicule the theory of conspiracy, one simply cannot dismiss it and hide from the fact that it simply is not just a coincident. From the cancellation of friendly preparatory matches of Team Melli before the tournament to refusal of Nike to supply boots, it seems that the odds were very much against Iran qualifying.

It is a cruel world and if you need to be recognized, you have to be at your best. Then, even refereeing decisions tend to favor you. Iran is not there yet, but with this group of gallant players and an astute coach like Queiroz, the path is not too long. Bravery, desire and pride were in full display by the boys and that is way more than what Egyptians displayed in that shameful match against Saudi Arabia.

Proud to be a Team Melli supporter.

Last Gasp penalty not enough for Team Melli.

So Portugal are not a one man team after all. On a sultry, sticky night in the Mordovia Arena, they progressed to the knock out stage without any meaningful contribution from the man who defines them. His goatee may grow ever more prominent with every game, as he seeks visual confirmation of his status as the greatest of all time, but for Cristiano Ronaldo this was not his most accomplished moment in a red shirt. He even had a penalty saved. And was lucky to stay on the pitch after the VAR noticed that he had thrust an elbow into an opponent’s face.

But if it was not his night, despite the bravest of late, late comebacks, despite hurling the kitchen sink at their opponents, it wasn’t Iran’s either. And it is to the detriment of the tournament that Carlos Queiroz’s side have played their last in it. It is certainly to the detriment of the competition’s atmosphere that their tens of thousands fans, with their incessant broiling enthusiasm and their relentless parping of their horns, are going home. How they contributed. And at the last, how they suffered.

Iran’s problem here, though, was they needed to win. The draw they somehow engineered, remarkable as it was, deserved as it was, littered as it was with controversy and video assistance as it might have been, was never sufficient.

But this is a side set up to defend, a side who had sparked Spain’s ire earlier in the tournament with their ten man defensive line. And they began this game once again more concerned with the opposition than with themselves. Mind, when the opposition contains Ronaldo it pays to be attentive. And no one was more motivated to stop him that Carlos Queiroz, the Iran manager.

Once he was his protege but has latterly become his nemesis. Putting Saeid Ezatolahi in front of the back four, to stop Ronaldo’s forward surges, Queiroz had a constant barrier against Portuguese assault.

Group B

Pos Team P W D L GD Pts
1 Spain 3 1 2 0 1 5
2 Portugal 3 1 2 0 1 5
3 Iran 3 1 1 1 0 4
4 Morocco 3 0 1 2 -2 1

The trouble was, moving forward in pursuit of the goal they needed required a level of tactical revisionism beyond this side. When they attacked they looked nervous, lacking in belief and purpose. And too often the ball.

Their task was made all the more pressing just before half time. Until then Portugal had huffed and puffed without any hint that they might create an opening or two. Then Ricardo Quaresma, who was in the side replacing Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva, demonstrated why he had been picked. Receiving the ball near the touchline he pushed it into the path of Adrien Silva who deftly returned it with a backheel.

The winger then advanced into the area before arcing a beautiful shot beyond the Iran keeper Ali Beiranvand with the outside of his right boot. The first person to congratulate him was his captain Ronaldo, perhaps informing him he could do that.

From there, Iran had only one course. And it was clearly not one with which they were comfortable.

The AZ Alkmaar forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh did his best, trying to find space, trying to work his way into the Portuguese box. He even fashioned a freekick of a sort Ronaldo himself might admire, when picking himself up after being fouled and, after playing a cunning dummy, he curled the ball on to Ezatolahi’s head. But Rui Patricio was wise to it, showing Wolves fans what they might expect next season with a sharp save.

Ronaldo was not to be ignored, however. With Iran trying to attack, he broke into space, dipped his shoulder and ran into the area, tumbling as he passed Ezatolahi. He was convinced it was a foul, but Enrique Caceres, the Paraguayan the referee was having none of it. Until that is someone had a word in his ear. After consulting his touchline video equipment, which clearly indicated Ronaldo had been tripped, he gave the penalty, booking Ezatolahi in the process. But Beiranvand prevented the self-proclaimed goat from catching Harry Kane at the top of the scoring charts with a smart save.

For a moment the Iranian fans thought this might be a sign. Convinced the world is against them here appeared to be vindication. But despite their roaring, despite the endless tooting on their horns, their team could not find a way forward. Their sense of frustration was hardly reduced when, after consulting the VAR again, the referee ruled that Ronaldo had elbowerd Morteza Pouraliganji in the face. But, extraordinarily, much to Queiroz’s boiling fury, only a yellow card was flourished.

Iran finally had the moment they deserved when, consulting his video box for a third time, the increasingly embattled referee awarded them a penalty for handball by Cedric. Cue pandemonium in the stadium, a noise that was hardly quelled when the substitute Karim Ansarifard put his kick in the top corner. Now with the whistle looming, Iran could only pile forward. Mehdi hit the side netting, sending half the stadium (and Queiroz) into raptures.

It was not to be. Portugal will now face Russia in the last sixteen. And Iran, their players all in tears at the end, are going home, recognising the terminal truth that football can be a harsh game.


  • Alireza Beiranvand ; Morteza Pouraliganji, 23 Ramin Rezaeian, Ehsan Haji Safi [56′ 5 Milad Mohammadi[, 19 Majid Hosseini, 11 Vahid Amiri, Saeid Ezatolahi [7’5 10 Karim Ansarifard], Omid Ebrahimi, 18 Alireza Jahanbakhsh [70′  14 Saman Ghoddos], 17 Mehdi Taremi, 20 Sardar Azmoun


  • Rui Patrício , 21 Cédric Soares, Raphael Guerreiro, Pepe, José Fonte, 20 Ricardo Quaresma [70′ 11Bernardo Silva],14 William Carvalho, 10 João Mário, [80′ João Moutinho],  23 Adrien Silva, André Silva, [90+6 17 Gonçalo Guedes],  Cristiano Ronaldo

Mahdavikia “I Am quite hopeful that Team Melli will qualify. We must restrain Ronaldo.”

The former Iranian Team Melli player who traveled to Russia to watch Iran and Spain play, commented favorably on the team’s performance and said: “So far, we have been very good and I hope like all the people of Iran, that we do qualify for the next round this time.”

Mahdi MahdaviKia, speaking to Mehr correspondent, said: “We have bagged three points with the win against Morocco and we still stand a chance of qualification, all depending on the last round. The vital match was the one against Morocco, which, thankfully, we won.”

He said: “We have defended absolutely from the beginning of the match. This cannot be denied and from the perspective of those who follow international football, it was a 9 man defense. But after conceding the goal where we needed to attack, we went ahead and played an admirable game. In fact, we showed that there is potential in the offensive line and we can create dangerous attacking moves.”

The former midfielder was positive and confident about Portugal game: “We will hopefully win that game. It is a hard task to achieve, but it is not beyond us. We can do it”

MahdaviKia spoke about the widely covered criticism of the national team’s defensive style: “Many say they play defensively, it is a legitimate strategy, but in the second half of the game with Spain we have also displayed the potential for attack. We excelled up front when we needed to”

The former midfielder of Team  Melli who scored Iran’s goal against the United States in the 1998 World Cup in France also commented on the criticism directed at Sardar Azmoun’s performance: “There are critics everywhere in the world. Those who criticize must know what role the coach wanted him to play. Some players seem to perform below expectations, but the same player on the pitch would have done an excellent job of what the coach has asked him to do. I think all Team Melli players played well and surpassed expectations. This is the quality that we have at the moment, we can’t ask for something that is beyond their capabilities.”

MahdaviKia commented on Cristiano Ronaldo’s facing Iranian defense “Portugal’s biggest strength is this player who has scored 4 goals for Portugal , in fact all their goals. But it is football, and a team is a set of players it is a team game. For example, you see, Messi cannot do everything by himself, he needs his teammates support. If we need to win then we have to restrain Ronaldo so we can qualify by achieving the desired result.”

Iran and Portugal will face each other FIFA Russian World Cup on Monday. With two players missing from Portugal training session today.

Portuguese players Joao Moutinho and Raphael Guerreiro both missed the team training session today.

According to the news, Moutinho is suffering from cold while Guerreiro has a knock on one of his legs and therefore were absent and did not attend Portuguese training..

We are proud of you.


It was arguably the best performance that an Iranian team has displayed in a World Cup, perhaps only challenged by that glorious win against USA in Lyon in 1998.

Carlos Queiroz displayed a masterclass in coaching a young team against the icons of world football. Spain. The land of Real Madrid and Barcelona, the World Champions, European champions and the richest country in football.

Like him or hate him, Carlos Queiroz is a genius and has no fear of any team in the world including the best of them. When his team defends, it is a bastion, a fortress which was only broken by a fortuitous goal. When the teams intend to attack, like they did after conceding the goal, they are real threats.

Vahid Amiri’s bamboozling of Gerard Pique and leaving him for dead, after he slipped the ball between the legs of the Barcelona defender, perhaps highlighted the ability and the skill of the Team Melli players.

The disallowed goal by Saeid Ezatolahi, which was rightly called by the help of the VAR, was a huge disappointment and heartbreaking moment especially after the wild celebrations, however what followed and the chances that the Team Melli boys created, endeared this young and brave team. There was no shame in losing so narrowly to the mighty Spaniards, no shame at all. It was a performance full of grit and passion. It was a winning performance, but shame about the result. Iran deserved better.

Kudos to Team Melli players for a fine performance that will linger in the memories of the fan and critics for long time to come. Kudos to Carlos Queiroz, a brave man by all meanings of the word, for putting confidence in a 22 years old rookie with 3 caps in the center of defense in a World Cup match against a title contender and a World Cup champion. And the icing on the cake was the excellent performance of the boy, Majid Hosseini, who delivered and hardly put a foot wrong.

Regardless to the result versus Portugal, which the fans of course dearly like to see a repeat performance, the team and the coach have already done us proud.

A disallowed goal vs a fluke, gives victory to Spain.

Spain edged out a gallant Iran in an absorbing contest to ensure they will reach the World Cup knockout stage with a draw in their final group game.

The 2010 champions needed a fortuitous Diego Costa goal after half-time, having been frustrated in an opening period in which they had 81% of possession.

Iran, who defended admirably until the ball ricocheted in off Costa, instantly showed more intent and thought they had levelled, only for Saeid Ezatolahi’s strike to be ruled out for offside.

Carlos Queiroz’s Iran side had gone close through Karim Ansarifard and Mehdi Taremi before the crucial offside call and their endeavour throughout seemed to endear them to the crowd at the Kazan Arena.

They survived a chaotic goalmouth scramble where Gerard Pique somehow failed to turn home from a yard out, but again showed heart and threatened late on, with Taremi heading over when well placed.

Fernando Hierro, installed as Spain manager two days before the World Cup started, knows his side will reach the knockout stage if they draw with Morocco on Monday.

Spain overcome another test
Spain may feel they have faced several noteworthy hurdles already throughout their stay in Russia.

The sacking of coach Julen Lopetegui before the tournament was followed by a last-minute equaliser by Portugal in their opening game. Then came this significant examination.

Spain are accustomed to dominating possession against sides content to soak up pressure, but Iran’s deep 4-5-1 set-up in the first half afforded them only one shot on target. Costa cut an isolated and frustrated figure, with 12 first-half touches.

Iran set a record of 1,121 minutes without conceding a goal in qualifying and only after the break did Spain begin to find holes in a well-drilled defensive block, with Sergio Busquets forcing a fine save and Pique unable to flick home in the six-yard box.

Hierro’s side were typically neat with the ball – completing 90% of their passes – and their early second-half momentum told, with a Ramin Rezaeian clearance hitting Costa and finding the corner of the net. It was Costa’s ninth goal in his past nine international starts.

The fact he continued to hassle Iran’s defenders on a night when he was so often crowded out of the game is to his credit and, after scoring twice against Portugal, he looks to have made the lone striker role his own.

Spain top Group B courtesy of having collected fewer disciplinary points than Portugal.

This was their first competitive defeat since the 2014 World Cup and the way they switched from a defensive focus to chase the game after falling behind showed they have more to offer than simply a stiff rearguard.

Ansarifard’s lashed volley left David de Gea motionless but found the side netting, while Taremi failed to hit the target with two headers, notably late on when he rose unchallenged.

But Iran will look back at Ezatolahi’s disallowed goal as key. He stabbed home from close range, only for the assistant referee – and then the video assistant referee – spotted he had strayed offside when the ball was flicked on.

Ranked 37th in the world by Fifa – 27 places lower than Spain – Iran continued to show grit in denying Pique in an almighty goalmouth scramble but they crucially failed to find the target with their seven shots at the other end.

Queiroz said the Spain match was Iran’s “game of the universe”. Their fixture in Saransk on Monday now arguably deserves a bigger title.

A win would send them through to the knockout stage for the first time in their history and a draw could prove enough if Spain lose to Morocco.

Man of the match – Isco

Isco was at the heart of Spain’s play and saw more of the ball than anyone on the pitch with 138 touches. He completed 92% of his passes and played eight crosses – another high. He found shooting opportunities and also won the ball back as many times as anyone else in his side. On a night when the Iran defence deserved praise, he was key in wearing them down.
‘We had one match point’ – what they said

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz: “We showed that we were ready to suffer and ready to compete.

“There’s no doubt Spain play wonderful, stylish football but we deserved more for the way we played.

“We will learn a lot from this game. If you think of it like tennis, we had one match point today and we will have another against Portugal. Everything is still open. We are still alive and still dreaming.”

Spain boss Fernando Hierro: “What I can say is that we have three more points. We knew it was going to be very difficult and, sure enough, it was a very complex game.

“There were times in both halves when things were tough. During the break, we knew we had a plan and we carried it out – my players did what they had to do.

“Iran are a strong team and it’s very tough to score against them. We knew how hard it would be. But once again my players have given everything.”

Former Chelsea striker Chris Sutton on BBC Radio 5 live: “Iran had a game plan and they sat deep and let Spain come on to them.

“But in a funny way, Spain’s goal gave Iran belief, because that’s when they really went for it.

“They gave absolutely everything and I felt so sorry for them lying down on the pitch at the end.”

Spain find a 1-0 win again

“It was not a miracle that we won,” Queiroz

Team Melli coach Carlos Queiroz said his team may have won their World Cup ‘final’ against Morocco on Friday but he already has his sights set on a “Universe Cup final” against Spain.

Iran have emerged as the early challengers to Spain and Portugal in Group B after Aziz Bouhaddouz’s 95th-minute own-goal sealed a dramatic 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg. It was only Iran’s second World Cup victory in the country’s history and means Queiroz’s side head into their clash against La Roja on Wednesday (today) with momentum and hope.

“If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final,” Queiroz said.

Iran’s build-up to this tournament had not been smooth. Nike had blocked the players’ supply of boots only four days before their opening game while further back, friendlies against Greece and Kosovo were cancelled.

“It was not a miracle that we won,” Queiroz said. “Superman is only in the cartoons. Nobody is superman.

“What can happen once in a while is a group of people, when they are united, we can create super stories and super things. Our attitude is to try and make the impossible, possible.”

Spain coach Fernando Hierro confirmed that David De Gea will continue as goalkeeper against Iran, despite failing to stop Ronaldo from scoring a hat trick in their opening game.

“We see he (De Gea) is calm, training as usual,” Hierro said at a press conference ahead of Wednesday’s clash with Iran.

“I have clear ideas and the way forward. From my experience, athletes need confidence not only in good times,” he added.

Preview: Iran vs. Spain

19 Jun 2018

Iran did their homework ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™. While there was undoubtedly an element of luck about their late win against Morocco, the team did exactly what was expected of them – play with passion. It was clear from the outset that a draw from the opening match would almost certainly not be enough for the Asian side to make it out of such a high-quality group. With three points under their belts, they are now at the top of Group B and brimming with confidence.

  • Iran top their group after first World Cup win since 1998
    Will Daniel Carvajal return to Spain’s starting XI?


Meanwhile 2010 world champions Spain made a frantic start to the competition. While their 3-3 draw with Portugal was a spectacle worthy of a place in the World Cup history books, La Rojaonly earned a point for their exertions. Will coach Fernando Hierro make changes for his second match in charge? He may not need to. By scoring a brace, Diego Costa showed that he belongs within the team’s system. Players moved the ball around in midfield with their customary ease, while David de Gea will be determined not to concede three goals next time around – something captain Sergio Ramos will be glad to support him with.


Possible line up


Alireza Biranvand
Ramin Rezaeian Morteza Pouraliganji Pejman Montazeri Ehsan Haji Safi
Omid Ebrahimi Masoud Shojaei Saeid Ezatolahi Vahid Amiri
Sardar Azmoun Alireza Jahanbakhsh




David de Gea

Jordi Alba   Sergio Ramos  Gerard Pique Nacho
 Thiago Alcantara   Sergio Busquets Andres Iniesta David Silva
Isco  Diego Costa


Spain not a worry for Queiroz

Saint Petersburg: Carlos Queiroz is not one to dwell on the past and the Islamic Republic of Iran head coach is already planning to ensure his team remain ahead in Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia.

Iran lead the group after Matchday One, which saw the Persians scoring a heart-stopping 1-0 win over Morocco while Spain and Portugal played to a thrilling 3-3 draw in the other match.

Up next for Iran are 2010 world champions Spain, who must be hurting after Cristiano Ronaldo’s late free-kick not only gave him a hat-trick but salvaged a point for Portugal.

Queiroz, however, isn’t worried about what Spain have to offer as he is focused on his team and making sure they not only maintain top spot in the group but take a huge step forward in their bid to qualify for the Knockout Stage for the first time in five appearances at the FIFA World Cup.

“Top spot in the group is not for sale and neither is it for rent. Spain are a quality team but we want to keep top spot,” said Queiroz, who is leading Iran for a second successive FIFA World Cup.

The win over Morocco was Iran’s second World Cup victory in the country’s history and means Queiroz’s side head into their clash against La Roja on Wednesday with momentum and hope.

“If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain (on Wednesday) will be the Universe Cup final,” Queiroz had said after Friday’s win.


It was win that sparked celebrations back home and Team Melli will now look to push harder against a Spanish side who were rocked by the sacking of head coach Julen Lopetegui, who was replaced by Fernando Hierro.

That aside, Spain’s quality is unquestionable as they twice came from behind to lead Portugal 3-2 and had it not been for Ronaldo’s superb late free-kick, the three points would have been for Hierro’s side.

Iran, however, also showed that they don’t stop till the final whistle and with their efforts against Morocco rewarded – courtesy of Aziz Bouhaddouz nodding into his own net deep in added time – Queiroz has every reason to believe that Team Melli can get a result against Spain.