Iran had a big chance to qualify for the next stage of the World Cup. Carlos Quieroz’s side had to beat an already eliminated Bosnia and Herzegovina and hope that Argentina defeated Nigeria. To qualify outright Iran needed to win and ensure that their goal difference was superior to Nigeria’s.
Intriguingly, the possibility of lots being drawn to separate Nigeria and Iran wasn’t out of the question. If, for example, Iran had won 1-0 and Nigeria had lost 1-0 they would have been level on points with an identical goal difference and the same number of goals scored. Ordinarily, the tiebreaker would have then been their head to head record but in this case that wouldn’t have solved anything as Iran and Nigeria drew 0-0. The last resort would have been the drawing of lots.
Maybe it was for the best that things didn’t get that far.
1. Iranian negativity handed the initiative to the Bosnians and Nigeria
It’s one thing to set up a side in a compact, defensive manner against one of the tournament favorites. It’s another thing completely to do that against a team, which has already been eliminated from the World Cup especially when three points are required.
Bosnia and Herzegovina, playing a 4-4-2, was noticeably relaxed as they confidently stroked the ball around whereas Iran once again opted to line-up in a 4-5-1 with a view of not conceding early on.
To a certain degree it was understandable that Carlos Queiroz instructed his side to start off that way so that they could have a platform to launch a concerted spell of pressure later in the game. The danger though was that the Iranians would hand too much of the initiative to Bosnia and Herzegovina and that proved to be the case.
2. Bosnia finally go with what they know
With nothing but pride to play for the Bosnians reverted to the 4-4-2 system, which served them so well in the qualifying stage. They soon assumed control of the match as they were invited to dictate the play by the Iranians, which they accepted all too readily.
The Iranians gave Miralem Pjanić the freedom of the pitch and he directed the play setting up the opening goal for Edin Džeko. The Manchester City striker drilled his shot into the corner of the net in the 23rd minute and in all fairness he and his side deserved the lead for their more positive approach.
Pjanić got himself a goal, latching on to a through ball from Tino Susić. The Roma playmaker, who was borderline offside, kept his composure to score the second in the 59th minute. The chance arose from a mistake by the Iranian defender Jalal Hosseini who gifted the ball to the Bosnians in the first place.
When the Iranians did threaten briefly to mount a comeback Bosnia simply went down to the other end in the 82nd minute and scored a third courtesy of Avdija Vršajević who was played through by Sejad Salihović.