For 91 minutes, Portugal were in complete control and headed for a comfortable first-place finish in Group B, but everything fell apart late as they drew 1-1 with Iran in the two sides’ group-stage finale at the 2018 World Cup in Saransk, Russia, on Monday.
As a result, Portugal finish behind Spain (based on goals scored), who narrowly avoided elimination themselves, and will head to what could be the most difficult half of a World Cup knockout bracket the world has ever seen — Brazil, France and Germany will likely await after a clash with Uruguay in the round of 16.
34-year-old Ricardo Quaresma marked his first career World Cup start with a stunning goal in the 45th minute, perfectly striking the ball with the outside of his right foot from 20 yards out. Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand came closer than most might have expected, but couldn’t make the save. (WATCH HERE)
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Portugal should have been 2-0 up in the 53rd minute, but Beiranvand denied Cristiano Ronaldo from the penalty spot — awarded upon video review. Ronaldo’s placement — both height and width — made it far too comfortable for Beiranvand, and set up a far more trying final half-hour than the reigning European champions would have liked.
The penalty miss would prove costly, as Iran were awarded a spot kick of their own in stoppage time, converted by Karim Ansarifard in the 93rd minute.
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The ultimate disaster so nearly struck moments later, when Mehdi Taremi got in behind the Portuguese backline and fired just inches wide from a tough angle, rippling the outside of the net. A goal would have sent Iran top of the group and dropped Portugal to third, eliminating them altogether.