Iran claim historic third place in FIFA Futsal World Cup
Cali: Islamic Republic of Iran’s remarkable journey at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Colombia 2016 ended on a high note, as they claimed third place after a 4-3 penalty shootout win over Portugal following a 2-2 draw in Cali on Saturday (local time).
The Iranians came from two goals down to take the third-place match to a dramatic penalty shootout, where six rounds of spot kicks were needed to decide the contest.
The first half had the feeling of a friendly contest, with both goalkeepers in Iran’s Alireza Samimi and Portugal’s Bebe being the standout performers in the opening period.
Both sides created a good opportunity to open the scoring. Ahmad Esmaeilpour had Iran’s best chance, but his chip over Bebe also sailed over the crossbar. At the other end, Samimi did well to deny Cardinal at close range.
Where the first half was fairly tepid, the second half came to life, as Cardinal scored a quick-fire brace within the first minute of the restart for Portugal. He showed great patience to beat the onrushing Samimi to open the scoring before combining with captain Richardinho to make it 2-0.
Cardinal then made a key defensive play to deny Ali Hassan Zadeh’s shot, even though replays showed he may have used his arm to block the goal-bound effort.
Then an ugly melee that involved both sets of players in the Portugal half produced a pair of red cards, as Iran’s Mohammadreza Sangsefidi and Portugal’s Miguel Castro were given their marching orders.
It was at that stage that Iran turned the match around. Afshin Kazemi pulled the Asian champions back into the game with an assured finish before Mahdi Javid converted a second penalty past Portugal’s back-up goalkeeper Vitor Hugo to send the contest to a penalty shootout after the full-time whistle.
It required six rounds of penalties to decide this encounter. Iran’s back-up goalkeeper Sepehr Mohammadi made a pair of big saves, but his team-mates twice hit the woodwork with their spot-kick efforts.
Then after Portugal’s Joao Matos hit the post with his sixth-round penalty, Javid stepped up to convert his spot-kick and ensure Iran’s best-ever finish to a Futsal World Cup, surpassing their fourth-place accomplishment at Hong Kong 1992.
Sources: FIFA.com, FIFA/Getty Images