|Stadium||Arena Fonte Nova|
Amir Hossein Sadeghi
Iran went into its final Group F match against Bosnia-Herzegovina knowing it had to score goals -- and win -- to pip Nigeria for second in the group and advance to the Round of 16. But as their opponents proved, scoring's easier said than done if you don't have talents like Edin Dzeko and Miralem Pjanic.
Bosnia's stars each landed on the scoresheet, Manchester City striker Dzeko burying a low shot in the 22nd minute and Roma playmaker Pjanic capitalizing on an Iranian mistake in the 59th, pacing the Dragons to a comprehensive 3-1 victory. The win was Bosnia-Herzegovina's first-ever in the World Cup finals.
Bosnia finished the tournament with three points, good for third in Group F, while Iran finishes fourth with the single point earned in its opening 0-0 draw with Nigeria.
Reza Ghoochannejhad brought Iran within 2-1 in the 82nd minute, converting a low Javad Nekounam cross to ensure Team Melli would not be the only team eliminated from the tournament without scoring a goal. But a swift Bosnian counterattack led to Avdija Vrsajevic's fine finish only a minute later, putting the result beyond doubt.
Despite Iran being the team with the greater motivation -- Bosnia had already been eliminated, while an Iranian victory combined with a Nigeria loss vs. Argentina could have seen them through -- star winger Ashkan Dejagah was kept quiet as Bosnia enjoyed by far the better of play and greater number of chances. The Dragons exit as perhaps the most unlucky team in the tournament, having scored an unfortunate own goal in the opening minutes of its 2-1 loss to Argentina and seeing a first-half Dzeko goal in the 1-0 loss to Nigeria wrongly disallowed for offsides.
The good news is that with Dzeko, Pjanic and other major contributors like midfielder Tino-Sven Susic all young enough to continue with the national side, it's not difficult to see Bosnia returning for another shot in 2018.