Ending a silent protest following their opening loss to England (pictured), Iran’s players sang their country’s national anthem before eking out a pair of goals in extra time to defeat Wales 2-0 on Friday in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar. Photo by Julio Munoz/EPA-EFE
Nov. 25 (UPI) -- Ending a silent protest, Iran's players sang their country's national anthem before eking out a pair of goals in extra time to defeat Wales 2-0 on Friday at the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
The temperature in Doha reached 88 degrees at the start of the game, which saw Iran's Roozbeh Cheshmi score in the 98th, followed by a Ramin Rezaeian goal shortly after in the 101th minute to seal the victory.
Ahmad bin Ali Stadium was predominantly filled with a pro-Iranian crowd, although around 6,000 Welsh supporters clad in red were on hand to watch their team play its second game of the tournament.
Wales' record in the group stage now sits at 0-1-1 after a 1-1 draw against the United States in its first World Cup match in 64 years. The country with a population of 3.19 million people drew double the expected amount of fans to the game, while schools and businesses suspended operations to take in the game.
Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey became the first player of the tournament to be sent off for a red card after a collision with Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi with four minutes left in the game. Hennessy also became just the third goalkeeper ever to receive a red card at a World Cup. The 35-year-old will miss the team's final group stage match on Tuesday against England. A win or draw by England in that game would end Wales' slim chances of moving on in the tournament.
"We are gutted, there is no other way to say it," Wales captain Gareth Bale told the BBC following the match. "We fought until the last second and we need to go again."
The team's fans that made the 3,376-mile flight from Wales to Qatar shared his sentiments.
"It was an incredibly hostile atmosphere, like an away game. We would have taken a 0-0 but to lose in injury time like that is gutting," 33-year-old Matt James, from Monmouthshire, told the BBC.
With one win and one draw thus far, Iran's hopes of advancing are very much alive, thanks in part to the play of goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini. Hosseini, who plays for Persian Gulf Pro League club Esteghlal, made the first big save of the game at the 12-minute mark, stopping Welsh striker Kieffer Moore in close.
Iran next plays the United States on Tuesday at Al-Thumama Stadium to close out Group B play.
After standing in silence ahead of their team's 6-2 loss to England in the team's opening match, Iranian players ended their silent protest on Friday, singing along to their country's national anthem, albeit somewhat halfheartedly.
Iranian state television cut away from its live broadcast of the opening match as the players lined up before the game for the anthem.
The lack of participation in the opener likely related to the months of protests and civil unrest in the country, following the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who died in police custody after being arrested by the Guidance Patrol, the morality squad of the Law Enforcement Command of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Some fans on Friday wore shirts with Amini's name on the back. Others clearly voiced support for the Islamic Republic's current regime.
The team's Portuguese manager, Carlos Queiroz responded tersely to a question from a BBC journalist ahead of Friday's game, when asked if Iranian players had a message for protesting citizens back home.
"Is it fair to continue to ask political questions? It is the freedom of the press and it is our right not to answer and to respect and understand our position," Queiroz said prior to the match.
"Others should respect 3,000 years of (Iranian) history, culture, history, and science. Iranians are educated and humble and love what other citizens around the world like."
Raheem Sterling (C) of England is mobbed by teammates after he scoried his third goal during the 2022 FIFA World Cup Group B match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, Qatar, on November 21, 2022. England beat Iran 6-2. Photo by Chris Brunskill/UPI | License Photo