At the Azadi Stadium in Tehran this evening, Iran romped to a comfortable 4-0 win over hapless Lebanon in Group A of the Asian World Cup Qualifiers to keep themselves right in the mix for the automatic qualification spots. Goals from Mohamad Khalatbari, Reza Ghoochannejhad and a brace from Esteghlal midfielder Javad Nekounam easily saw off the Lebanese, who finish their campaign bottom of the group with only five points from their eight matches. Carlos Queiroz’ Iran team move up into second, leapfrogging Uzbekistan with one game left to play.
Iran‘s win means that fourth placed Qatar have now lost any slim hopes they still had of reaching the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. That leaves three teams vying for two automatic qualification spots going into the last round of fixtures next week when leaders South Korea host Iran and the Uzbeks take on Qatar. Whichever of the top three misses out on an automatic spot will at least now be guaranteed to finish third and make the play-off against the third placed team from Group B.
Uzbekistan need to win their final match to have any chance of coming in the top two, and they will be favourites to do so at home in Tashkent against the already eliminated Qataris. If they draw or lose then South Korea and Iran will both qualify whatever the result between them in Ulsan, but should the Uzbeks win then they will progress with the Koreans if South Korea beat Iran. An Uzbek win couple with a draw in the other match would mean it comes down to goal difference between Uzbekistan and Iran and likewise an Uzbek win coupled with an Iranian win would mean it comes down to goal difference between Uzbekistan and South Korea, so it’s going to be fascinating watching that unfold next week.
The teams were:
Iran: Ahmadi, Montazeri, Heydari, Nekounam, Shojaei (Mosalman 69), Teymourian, Hosseini, Beikzadeh (Hajsafi 80), Jabari (Rezaei 71), Ghoochannejhad, Khalatbari
Lebanon: Hassan, Jounaidi, Daher, A Ahmad Atwi, Maatouk, Chamass, Salameh (Mansour 76), Chaito (Matar 45+1), Kojok (M Atwi 67), Shamsin, Zain Tahhan
The current Group A table is as follows: