TEHRAN: Mehdi Taremi was on target as Iran confirmed their spot in the 2022 World Cup finals in Qatar with a 1-0 victory over Iraq at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Thursday.
Porto forward Taremi scored the winner after 48 minutes to send Iran through to a World Cup finals for the sixth time, and third in a row.
Iran are unbeaten in the third stage of qualifying, having won six of their seven matches, with a draw against South Korea.
Team Melli consolidated their position on top of the Group A table with 19 points, two points ahead of South Korea.
They extended their impressive unbeaten run since Croatian head coach Dragan Skocic took over in February 2020, with 11 wins and one draw.
On Thursday, they recorded their second win over Iraq on the road to Qatar.
The Iraqis struggled for momentum and failed to break down the famed Iranian defence, with the hosts clearly the dominant side on front of their home fans.
Taremi, who only arrived in Tehran on Thursday, picked up an Alireza Jahanbaksh assist after the break sending in a right-footed shot from inside the box.
Both teams were hit by the absence of players following positive tests for Covid-19.
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Sardar Azmoun, who plays for Bayer Leverkusen, was among the five Iranian players missing, along with eight Iraqi players.
Iran have played in the World Cup finals five times in the past – in 1978, 1998, 2006, 2014 and 2018 – while Iraq’s last and only participation was in Mexico 1986.
Iran have never gone beyond the group stage in the tournament.
Celebrations all round
Following the victory, Iranian players on the pitch carried big flags, saluted fans and took victory photos.
There were some fireworks going off with loud cheers from spectators as women were allowed entry to an Iran football match for the first time since October 2019.