Bosnia and Herzegovina beat Iran 3-1 at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador on Wednesday, recording their first-ever World Cup win in the process.
Leading into the match Iran needed a win and Nigeria to lose to Argentina in order for them to qualify for the knockout stages, but they came up against a hugely talented Bosnia side who controlled the game from start to finish.
Midway through the first half Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko drilled a long-range effort home to put Bosnia 1-0 up, then just after the break Miralem Pjanic scored a superb second as Iran’s hopes of making the last 16 for the first time in their history looked to be over. Late on Reza Ghoochannejad popped up to half the deficit but moments later Bosnia launched another counter and Avdija Vrsajevic scored to make it 3-1 and dash Iran’s hopes.
With their win Bosnia finished in third place in Group F on three points, while Iran finished bottom of the group with one point.
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Early on Bosnia piled on the pressure from set pieces as Dzeko aimed to help the Eastern European nation finish their first-ever World Cup campaign in style. Iran grew into the game and threatened out wide with some intelligent running but Bosnia’s defense held firm during the early stages.
Both team continued to battle it out as Iran aimed to qualify for the knockout stages for the first time but midway through the first half Bosnia opened the scoring. Dzeko found some space 25-yards out, ran at three Iranian defenders and then drilled a low left-footed shot into the goal to give Bosnia a 1-0 lead.
Soon after Iran came within inches of equalizing as Masoud Shojaei hit a drifting effort from the right-side of the box which hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced out. Asmir Begovic then made a great stop off a deflection from his own defender, as Iran began to pile forward in search of the win they needed to advance. However Bosnia continued to look more dangerous going forward and Ibisevic drilled a shot just wide before the break as the Iran trailed 1-0 at half time.
Needing to score twice and hoping that Argentina would beat Nigeria in Group F’s other match, Iran had a pivotal 45 minutes ahead of them.
However within 15 minutes of the restart Iran’s faint hopes of advancing were all but over as Pjanic was found by Dzeko on the overlap. The Roma star took one touch to settle himself and coolly slotted home Bosnia’s second goal of the game. Game over.
Iran were starring at World Cup elimination straight in the face.
Bosnia continued to impress as the World Cup newcomers hit the foot of the post when Sead Kolasina’s cross deflected towards goal and almost snuck in. The game then became a showcase of how good the tiny nation are, while also suggesting what could have been had they been luckier in close defeats to Argentina and Nigeria in their other Group F matches.
Late on Iran rallied as Ghoochannejhad first dragged a shot wide, then moments later the Charlton Atheltic forward pounced to steer home a ball drilled across the goal to hand Iran a lifeline. Yet less than a minute later, Bosnia broke on the counter and Vrsajevic smashed in their third goal, and his first international goal, off the post to quell any hopes of a last-gasp comeback from Iran.
At the final whistle both teams were heading home after being knocked out of the World Cup, but they dished up an entertaining game to leave on a high note.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Begovic, Vrsajevic, Kolasinac, Hadzic (Vrajnes, 61′), Sunjic, Spahic, Besic, Pjanic, Ibisevic, Dzeko (Visca, 84′) Susic (Salihovic, 79′)
Goals: Dzeko (23′), Pjanic (59′), Vrsajevic (83′)
Iran: Haghighi, Haji Safi, (Jahanbaksh, 63′) Hosseini, Sadeghi, Shojaei (Heydari, 46′), Timotian, Montarezi, Ghoochannejad, Pooladi, Nekounam, Dejagah (Ansaifard, 68′)
Goal: Ghoochannejad (82′)