FIFA U-17 WC: Iran beats Mexico in a pulsating contest

Goals from Mohammad Sharifi and Allahyar Sayyad helped Iran beat Mexico and extend its unbeaten run into the quarter-finals of the ongoing FIFA U-17 World Cup.

Iran's Mohammad Sharifi (no. 8) celebrates with Younes Delfi after scoring his side's opening goal against Mexico.   -  K. Murali Kumar

Iran made its way into its first-ever quarterfinal on the back of a nervy and pulsating 2-1 win against Mexico in the Round-of-16 clash here at the Fatorda stadium on Tuesday.

Goals from Mohammad Sharifi and Allahyar Sayyad helped the Abbas Chamanian-coached side maintain its unbeaten run at the FIFA U-17 World Cup.


Mexico was quick off the blocks but its bright start in the opening proceedings was canceled out by two defensive errors at the back, which led to Iran racing to a 2-0 lead within the first 12 minutes. Mohammed Ghaderi, who returned to the starting line-up, was brought down inside the box by right-back Adrian Vasquez. Sharifi stepped up to place it low to the right of Cesar Lopez, who went the other way.

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In the 11th minute, Lopez was beaten once again when he was caught off his line by Sayyad, who was the quickest to react to a long punt upfield from his goalkeeper Ali Gholam Zadeh.

Mexico had a chance to get itself back in the game through its No. 9 Daniel Lopez, but he lost his shooting boots just as he was about to take a shot at goal. 

Mexico regrouped itself after the water break in the first half and came back strongly to punish Iran for taking its foot off the pedal. Roberto de la Rosa was both the architect and the one to apply the finishing touches for its opening goal.

The midfielder played the ball over the top which stretched the Iranian back-line. He then ghosted onto a Diego Lainez’s effort which was not cleared from the box before lashing a drive into the bottom left corner.

The Iranian side was breached for the first time in the regulation 90 minutes of play in the whole tournament. This was the response Arteaga had hoped for on the eve of the tie.

READ: FIFA U-17 WC: Late penalty helps Spain edge past France

The two-time champion was rallied on by the 5000 plus in the stadium which also had a strong vocal Mexican contingent. Iran could have killed its momentum when a delayed cutback from Delfi allowed Luis Gamez to clear the ball away from danger.

Mexico went into the half-time the confident side as it had a major share of the possession and shots on target.

It was end-to-end at the start of the second period, where both teams had multiple opportunities to score but were thwarted by excellent saves from the goalkeepers.

Iran missed its captain Mohammad Gobeshavi in midfield as Chamanian resorted to bringing in his injured center-back Amir Esmaeil Zadeh into the middle of the park to screen the back four.

The closest Mexico came to equalising was from a Jairo Torres free-kick in the 68th minute. A curling shot from the left rattled the cross-bar and fell inside the box for a goal-mouth scramble to ensue but no Mexican player was next to it to tap it in.

The 2016 AFC Cup semifinalist pushed hard for its third goal with Sayyad, Delfi and Ghaderi breaking at pace in the second half but their efforts were thwarted by some last-ditch saves from Lopez and his defenders.

Iran, though, suffered a blow heading into its big quarterfinal clash against Spain as Delfi was cautioned by the referee.

Iran tried all its tricks in the book to slow down the game. Gholam Zadeh went to the ground and late substitutions were made to tick the seconds off the clock.

An injury time of six minutes was added by the fourth official but the bedlam invoking second goal from Mexico never came as Iran breathed easy at the final whistle.

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