Ansarifard defends Taremi after costly miss against Portugal

Gabriel Tan Gabriel Tan

Karim Ansarifard has leapt to the defence of Iran team-mate Mehdi Taremi after his crucial miss in Monday’s 1-1 draw with Portugal which led to their elimination from the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

A spirited display from Team Melli was nearly enough to earn them a place in the Round of 16 ahead of Group B rivals Portugal.

After Ricardo Quaresma had put the Portuguese ahead with a stunning effort, Ansarifard equalised for Iran in the third minute of injury-time when he converted from the penalty spot.

Remarkably, the Iranians had another chance right after when Saman Ghoddos’ deflected shot fell into the path of Taremi inside the area.

But, from a decent position, the Al Gharafa forward could only fire into the side-netting, spurning Iran’s final opportunity to claim the win they needed to seal a top-two finish in Group B.

Taremi’s costly miss in the 94th minute.

Still, Carlos Queiroz’s charges can be proud of what they achieved after picking up four points from a group also consisting of Spain and Morocco, and Ansarifard was in no mood to play the blame game.

“We are all behind Taremi,” he said, according to the Asian Football Confederation’s official website. “He is one of the best players in Iran history.

“If Taremi missed that chance, then we all missed it.

“It’s such a pity. We will regret this day for a long time to come.

“We fought with the best teams in the world and we deserved to advance. The people hoped we would qualify, but sadly it didn’t happen.

“I’m happy that I scored and rewarded the work of my team-mates. But it would have been more beautiful had we qualified.

“I hope we can keep this team because we have the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 coming up. And I hope next time we can advance from our group in the World Cup.”

Despite 2018 being their fifth World Cup appearance, Team Melli have yet to progress from the group stage although many believe it is only a matter of time if they continue to progress as they have in recent times.

A key factor behind their improvement has been the tutelage of Carlos Queiroz, whose future at the helm is still up in the air.

“I hope he [Queiroz] will continue for many years,” said goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who produced a fine stop to keep out a Cristiano Ronaldo penalty on Monday.

“His dream is to take the team to the second round and I know he can do it.

“We could have written history. We are sorry we failed in front of the Iranian people, but the players gave it their all.

“We came to the World Cup to write history, to do big things.

“Iran should be proud of this team. We ‘died’ for each other on the pitch.

Beiranvand produced a massive save to keep out Ronaldo’s penalty.

“Ronaldo is one of the world’s best players [and] I’m happy to have saved his penalty and helped my team come back to the game.

“After the penalty we controlled the game. We fought hard and I kiss the hands of the players and the hand of Carlos Queiroz.”