Salvador: With a solitary World Cup win to their name as of now, another for Iran against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Wednesday, at the Arena Fonte Nova, here, would alone be cause for big celebration.
With an improbable last-16 spot also up for grabs, the party could really be one to remember.
Iran arrived here with just one point but a host of new fans, thanks to a gutsy draw with group rivals Nigeria and a spirited display against twice champions Argentina in a game where Lionel Messi’s late goal denied them a famous stalemate.
Iran face an already eliminated Bosnia knowing that a win, coupled with defeat for Nigeria against Argentina, could see them go through if goal difference goes their way. A 1-0 victory for Iran and a 0-1 defeat for Nigeria would leave the two teams level on both points and goal difference and make matters interesting.
Much of Iran’s good work in Brazil has been built on an extremely disciplined defensive structure, but against the might of Argentina, they showed plenty of will to break fast and attack dangerously, going close several times to claiming a shock win.
“We proved that we defend always with our eyes pointed to the Argentine goal,” coach Carlos Queiroz said.
“We still have a chance to go through and who would have thought our World Cup would last longer than England and Spain! I hope we have showed the world that Iran can play football,” Ashkan Dejagah said.
Such attacking endeavour has not been so forthcoming for Bosnia, whose defensive focus in their first World Cup proved too cautious and ultimately led to their exit, following 1-2 and 0-1 defeats to Argentina and Nigeria.
Coach Safet Susic has been criticised for his defensive formation and the squad’s apparent poor fitness levels and have turned on the performances of key striker Edin Dzeko and captain Emir Spahic in defence.