Heshmat Mohajerani (IRN)
Micheal Hidalgo (FRA)
On a Thursday night, Toulouse stadium was witnessing what was on paper, quite an uneven match. France already qualified for the world cup 1978 in Argentine, after two consecutive failures, against Iran, a team from Asia. The French have just beaten mighty Brazil 1-0 in Paris and were preparing for a huge tally of goals against the relatively unknown Iranians, who despite their Asian success and domination, are of unknown and untested quality in Europe.
Micheal Hidalgo, the French manager, was full of confidence and his vision of the French National team was mighty. He wanted France to be a force to be reckoned with in the world of football, and beating minnows such as Iran should install fear in future opponents.
The match started as the French wanted it. No sooner than the 13th minute, Albert GEMMRICH scored a goal without much effort or difficulty due to a terrible error of judgment by the normally reliable Iranian keeper Naser Hejazi. His hesitant approach to the advancing ball and his wrong decision making allowed the French to score early and sense the opening of a floodgate.
This credit of this goal must be awarded to Dominique ROCHETEAU the French winger with the long flowing hair. He received a ball deep inside the Iranian half and zig zagged his way pass a few player on the touch line before crossing a nice ball towards Gemmerich to head home. Hejazi's ill timing was a contributory factor in that goal.
During the first 10 minutes, however, Iran did have a couple of scoring opportunity. From 30 meters deep, Hasan Rowshan embarked on a brilliant run, dribbling past least three French players towards the opposition goal. His final diagonal run took him within 6 meters of the goal post while the French keeper BERTRAND-DEMANES was caught off-guard away from the post. Rowshan shot wide to the right of the empty net.
The open goal miss from no more than 6 meters and the subsequent blunder by Hejazi in allowing GEMMRICH to score, was clear indication of the Iranian players nerves playing against such a formidable opposition. Mohajerani was frantically trying to cool the players nerves by continuous coaching from the sideline.
Something had to dramatically change the outcome of this match for Iran, and the timely goal scored by Hasan Rowshan was exactly what Iran wanted to ease their nerves.
After this goal, the Iranians started to control the game with darting runs from Rowhan who mesmerized the French defense. Unfortunately neither Faraki nor Jahani were capable of translating Rowshan's efforts into goals. Iranian midfield players , Parvin and Ghasimpour, who normally do a good job of controlling the midfield field, did not perform to expectation. The opposition Players , Henry Michael and Omar SAHNOUN were denying the Iranians the control of the midfield and were not allowing breathing space to Parvin and Ghasimpour. On the other hand, Rowshan , who has just recovered from a career threatening injury, and Mohamed Sadeghi the the fourth midfield player in Iran's team, performed well above expectation. Their individual skills allowed them to control and distribute the bal efficiently. Rowshan was also outstanding in dribbling the opponents. The absence of the French star Michael Platini was quite evident in the French team.
Faraki was moving quite well and making himself available for the crosses, but he did not link very well with his partner Jahani and this lost link was ended anyway by the injury to Faraki. A torn ligament was the result of Faraki's clash with two French defenders.
However and against the run of play, the domination by Iran was answered by a doubtful French goal scored in the 69th minute by Didier Six. The Iranian protested to the Spanish referee but to no avail, as the goal stood and the French were leading by 2-1for the rest of the match.
It would have been a nightmare for France, if the game finished anything other than a comprehensive win. Wining the match, they achieved, however, it was a very close call and the Iranians displayed some outstanding individual quality players. For the rest of the world, Iran proudly announced that they are a team to be reckoned with. Apart from the first quarter of an hour in which nerves got the better of them, Iran game plan worked well. All the three lines were functioning well, except for the obvious weakness that collectively, they did not translate the domination and individual skills into an efficient finishing.
This defeat, although bitter as the Iranians thought the winning French goal was doubtful, was quite satisfactory for the media back home in Iran. It was also a huge confidence boosting exercise with the World Cup rapidly approaching.
After the Real Madrid tournament and the great result against Argentina, this was a little short of the icing on the cake for Team Melli (Iran National Football Team). The defeat to the more experienced French team was nothing to feel ashamed about.