Accessibility links

Breaking News

Iranian Fans Celebrate Dramatic Late Victory In World Cup Opener


People gather in the city center of Rasht to watch the Iran-Morocco match on June 15.

Iran has scored a dramatic victory over Morocco at the World Cup in Russia, spurring thousands of fans back home to pour onto the streets to celebrate the second-ever victory for the country in soccer's centerpiece event.

Iranian state television on June 15 showed fans singing and dancing, lighting firecrackers, and honking car horns on the streets of the capital, Tehran, after the team's 1-0 victory in St. Petersburg.

Traffic on the city's crowded Vali Asr Street was reduced to a crawl as cars blasted their horns and joyful fans leaned out of windows waving the Iranian flag.

Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif praised the squad for displaying "determination and dignity."

Iran's victory was sealed at five minutes into stoppage time when Morocco's Aziz Bouhaddouz headed in an own goal.

It was the first World Cup victory for the Iranian side since it beat the United States 2-1 in France in 1998.

"This was not a miracle. We did not win this game by magic. We won because the team was fully concentrating for 90 minutes," Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said after the victory over Morocco.

"Our strategy worked perfectly from the first minute to create a mental collapse in the Moroccan players. We tried to do that by creating frustration, blocking all the playmakers," he added.

During the first half of the match, apparent Iran fans unfurled a banner protesting Iran's policies blocking women from attending soccer matches back home.

The banner read "#NoBan4Women" and "Support Iranian women to attend stadiums."

It was taken down for an unknown reason after a brief commotion as three members of the stadium staff moved to where the banner was being held. It was lifted again during the second half.

At home, Iranian authorities have been receiving increasing criticism for policies that ban female spectators from entering stadiums for men's sporting events.

Police often lock up offenders who try to ignore the prohibition -- drawing fire from international sports bodies and rights groups.

A planned open-air screening at Tehran's Azadi ("freedom") stadium was canceled by authorities at the last minute without explanation.

It would have marked the first time since the Islamic Revolution in 1979 that men and women could attend a sports event together at the stadium.

Iran will next face Spain in Kazan on June 20.

Meanwhile, in the early match on June 15, Uruguay beat Egypt 1-0 in Yekaterinburg, while soccer powerhouses Spain and Portugal played to a 3-3 draw in the late match in Sochi.

Portuguese star Cristiano Ronaldo scored his team's three goals, including the final one of the game that equalized the score in the 88th minute.

Russia opened the competition with a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Moscow on June 14 in a match between the two lowest-ranked FIFA teams in the tournament.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, The New York Times, and dpa
  • 16x9 Image


    RFE/RL journalists report the news in 27 languages in 23 countries where a free press is banned by the government or not fully established. We provide what many people cannot get locally: uncensored news, responsible discussion, and open debate.