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World Cup 2022: Iranian players sing anthem, defeat Wales

November 25, 2022

This time the Iranian players sung their national anthem, ahead of their second group-stage match at this World Cup. They went on to a victory over Wales that kept alive their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.

Iranian players sing national anthem
The Iranian players singing of the national anthem was drowned out by loud boos from the crowdImage: Frank Augstein/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

Rouzbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian both scored in injury time to lead Iran to a well-deserved 2-0 victory over Wales at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium on Friday.

The Iranian team had been loudly booed by their own fans after singing their national anthem ahead of their World Cup Group B match against Rob Page's side, having remained silent ahead of their opening game against England.

However, Carlos Queiroz' side had thespectators inside the stadium in raptures by the end of the match after Cheshmi smashed the ball into the bottom corner from 20 yards out in the 98th minute.

Three minutes later Ramin sealed all three points as he rounded off a clinical counterattack by chipping the ball past Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward. 

The victory was nothing less than Iran deserved, despite the fact that both goals came after Wales had been reduced to 10 men following Wayne Hennessey's 86th-minute red card, which was changed from a yellow card following a VAR review, for clattering into Mehdi Taremi.

In a dominating first-half display, Ali Gholizadeh believed he had given Iran an early lead, only to have his effort chalked off for offside by VAR.

The win keeps Iran's hopes of reaching the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time in their history on course.

Fans continue to express support for protesters

Much of the prematch talk was dominated by the question as to whether the Iranian team would show more supports for protesters back home and their decision to sing the national anthem was met with disappointment and tears by the fans in the ground.

Further signs of support by fans for the protesters in Iran included a woman holding a football shirt with "Mahsa Amini  22" printed on the back and blood red tears painted beneath her eyes – a reference to the woman whose death in police custody ignited the protests. 

Players show determination despite off-field struggles

The team looked to have been overwhelmed by the emotion of their decision to not sing the national ahead of Monday's match against England, finishing on the wrong side of a 6-2 drubbing by Gareth Southgate's team.

And, Queiroz's own frustrations at the persistent questions from the press ahead of Iran's second match over whether the players would produce another protest boiled over on Thursday when he confronted a BBC journalist after striker Terami was asked about the matter.

However, from the first kick on Friday Iran looked determined to refocus the conversation on their attributes on the pitch, knowing defeat by Wales would knock them out of the competition.

Iran players celebrate after beating Wales
Iran have failed to make it out of the group stages in their previous five appearances in the World CupImage: Pavel Golovkin/ASSOCIATED PRESS/picture alliance

Despite seeing less of the ball, Team Melli produced the most clear-cut chances including twice hitting the post in the first half, and Queiroz was full of praise for his team following the match.

"I think it was a wonderful day for us," he said. "We're back to football and I don't have the words to say thank you to our players.

"They deserve all attention and respect. I think today people understand these boys love to play football.

"The players deserve to be supported and we did it for the fans. That's the only reason we are here, to play for the fans. It's just the beginning, now we need to finish the job."

km/pfd (RTRE,AFP)