Too little too late for Bosnia as Iran also bow out
Result has no real bearing on Group F with Argentina and Nigeria making it through
Edin Dzeko of Bosnia and Herzegovina helps Toni Sunjic after he collided with teammate Muhamed Besic at the Arena Fonte Nova in Salvador. Photograph: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images
Argentina played their part and won in Porte Alegre, yet Iran could not rouse themselves to take advantage and progress from Group F at the Africans’ expense.
Iran needed a win by a couple of goals to finish second, but goals are evidently not their speciality. For over 80 minutes it looked like they would fail to trouble the scorer for a third match in succession, and in the end said a meek goodbye to the tournament, allowing Bosnia to record a convincing first win at their first World Cup finals even if their overall experience was soured by a poor refereeing decision.
It was Edin Dzeko’s wrongly disallowed goal against Nigeria that Bosnia feel changed the course of their World Cup, and though the consolation was entirely hollow once his side had been eliminated after two games, at least the Manchester City striker registered a goal that did count here.
After seeing a shot on the turn clear the bar and a header saved by the goalkeeper in the opening minutes, Dzeko came back down the pitch in search of the ball and was successful with a longer range attempt mid-way through the first half.
Picking up the ball from 40 yards out from Miralem Pjanic, the Roma midfielder who initiates most of Bosnia’s attacks, Dzeko carried the ball forward then cut inside to make room for a left foot shot that found Alizera Haghighi’s bottom left corner with some precision.
Perhaps the goalkeeper should not have been beaten from outside the area by a low shot that was less than thunderously struck, yet Dzeko aimed for exactly the right area.
Having barely crossed the halfway line by that point, Iran almost managed to equalise within a minute when the lively Masoud Shojaei crashed a shot against Asmir Begovic’s bar. Reza Ghoochannejad was unable to accept the rebound but was in an offside position anyway. Interestingly the goal line technology replay was triggered, even though the ball had clearly rebounded back into play. A no goal verdict was duly returned, though the suggestion that the ball had gone anywhere near the line was misleading.
While there is no doubt Iran can defend well – they proved that against Argentina – it is their attacking efforts that are often stodgy. They could theoretically have reached the round of 16 for the first time here, depending on Nigeria losing their final group game, though even when a goal behind they never drove forward with the sort of intensity that might have been expected.
They have scored just one goal in this tournament and it is not difficult to see why – they are much too conservative. It would have been amusing to have been a fly on the wall in the Iran dressing room at half time when Carlos Queiroz, of all people, was presumably telling his players it was time to throw caution to the wind.
Iran did get forward a little more in the second half without looking entirely convincing. Ashkan Dejagah spent far too much of his time being pulled up for offside, as if unfamiliar with operating in such an advanced role. The television reaction shots of Iran supporters in the crowd showed disbelief and dejection when Pjanic’s well taken second goal put the matter beyond doubt, but Queiroz and his players were hardly in a winning position before that.
At no time in this World Cup have Iran been in a winning position, and when Pjanic just about stayed onside to accept Tino Susic’s pass and elegantly slip the ball beyond the goalkeeper after an hour they paid the price for lack of adventure.
Even when Ghoochannejad finally opened their World Cup account eight minutes of the competition remaining – Bosnia were waiting for an offside flag that never came – Avidja Vrsajevic hit back within a minute to restore a two-goal winning margin.
Fair enough, Iran had a hard luck story after their Argentina defeat, yet even that does not match the one Bosnia can tell. Guardian Service