Iran held Portugal 1-1 in their final Group B match on Monday but couldn’t stop Cristiano Ronaldo’s men from entering the last 16 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Portugal, who started the match with four points – one more than Iran – had the advantage in case of a draw. Following the draw at the jam-packed Mordovia Arena, Iran are third on the table with four points and will now exit alongside Morocco, who have one point, from Group B. Portugal are second with five points – same as Spain but the latter side is ahead on the basis of scoring more goals during the group stage matches. After the victory, Ronaldo took to Twitter and posted a photo with his team-mates. “Objectivo cumprido. Unidos e focados para os oitavos de final. Vamos Portugal (Translation in English: Objective fulfilled. United and focused for the final round. Let’s Portugal),” Ronaldo’s post read.
Portugal will face Uruguay in Sochi on June 30 for a place in the quarter-finals.
Ronaldo won a second-half spot-kick after a video review but saw his effort saved, with the Real Madrid star unable to add to his four-goal tally at the tournament.
“I think we did very well, we have achieved our goal and now we have to recover and think about the next match,” said Ricardo Quaresma, who scored a fine goal for Portugal. “We know the difficulties we’ll face, they’re a big team with very good players.”
Ronaldo, scorer of all four Portugal goals in his country’s first two games, forced Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand into an early save after barging his way into the box.
Joao Mario should have put Portugal in front after a defensive mix-up between Saeid Ezatolahi and Beiranvand, but the Inter Milan midfielder blazed over.
Iran’s first genuine sight of goal came on 34 minutes when Ezatolahi directed a firm header from a free-kick straight into the grateful hands of Rui Patricio.
Quaresma fired Portugal ahead just before the interval when he exchanged passes with Adrien Silva before bending home in style from the edge of the area with the outside of his right foot. Ronaldo had the chance to double the lead five minutes into the second half after he was upended by Ezatolahi, with a spot-kick awarded following consultation with the video assistant referee (VAR).
But the Portugal captain was denied by Beiranvand who dived to his left to smother Ronaldo’s attempt.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz remonstrated angrily with the officials as Saman Ghoddos appeared to be impeded by William Carvalho inside the area.
Iran earned a stoppage-time penalty, again with the help of VAR, when Sardar Azmoun’s header struck the arm of Cedric after the pair contested a deep cross.
Substitute Ansarifard buried his effort into the roof of the net to set up a dramatic finish.
Mehdi Taremi could have snatched a stunning winner after a deflected shot rolled into his path, but he fired into the side netting as Iran fell agonisingly short.