Iran books ticket to 2018 World Cup

Iran become the third team assured of a berth in the 2018 World Cup finals along with host Russia and Brazil after a 2-0 win over Uzbekistan in Tehran on Monday.

Iranian players celebrate their victory against Uzbekistan in Tehran on Monday.   -  AFP


Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi were on target as Iran confirmed its spot in the 2018 World Cup finals with a 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran on Monday.

It was Iran's sixth win from eight matches in Group A which took the table-toppers to 20 points, while South Korea is second on 13 ahead of its match against Qatar on Tuesday.

Iran is still unbeaten in the third stage of qualifying and amazingly has not conceded a single goal during the campaign, thus underlining its credentials as one of Asia's football giants. On Monday, they recorded its second win over Uzbekistan on the road to Russia, with Rostov forward Azmoun first finding the net in the 23rd minute with a right-footed shot from the left of the box following a through ball from Alireza Jahanbaksh.

Iran was clearly the dominant side in front of its home fans and could have easily emerged winners with an even more impressive scoreline but for some lacklustre finishing. In the 48th minute Taremi drew a foul from Akmal Shorakhmedov, but Masoud Shojaei fired the resulting penalty high over the crossbar.

The Uzbeks struggled for momentum and failed to break down the famed Iranian defence, eventually conceding their second goal of the match in the 88th minute with Taremi finishing from Azmoun's pass.

Iran has played in the World Cup finals four times in the past -- in 1978, 1998, 2006 and 2014 -- while Uzbekistan is still seeking their first ever qualification. Samvel Babayan's men, who have 12 points from eight matches, are not yet out of contention for an automatic place but will have to win their remaining two matches and hope other results go in their favour.

Iran joins host Russia and five-time champion Brazil in securing a place for the tournament which runs from June 14 to July 15, 2018.

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