A late penalty earned a draw for Iran against Portugal in a bad-tempered group decider in Saransk that was dominated by VAR decisions and saw Portugal go through to the knockout stages despite tense final minutes of the game.
Ricardo Quaresma’s stunning goal just before half-time was cancelled out by an injury-time penalty from the substitute Karim Ansarifard, leading to a frantic few minutes before the final whistle in which Iran pushed for a second that would have taken them through. For a brief moment, half the stadium thought Iran had found the most unlikely of winners, but Mehdi Taremi’s shot had hit the side netting.
The referee gave two penalties, one to each side, after VAR reviews, with the Iran penalty in stoppage time looking a harsh decision against Cédric Soares for a handball. Earlier, Cristiano Ronaldo had missed a penalty, initially not given but revised after VAR.
Before the game, Iran’s Portuguese coach, Carlos Queiroz, had called the Portugal team “Cristiano Ronaldo and a group of players who run after him”. In the end, though, it was a Ronaldo-esque moment of skill from Quaresma that had the decisive impact on the night.
uaresma scored just before half-time, taking the ball on and then curling a superb shot with the outside of his boot across the keeper, Alireza Beiranvand, and into the top corner from the corner of the area. Beiranvand, whose diving arm was just shy of the ball, looked sickened, but in reality there was little he could do to stop the strike.
Ronaldo made two main contributions to the game: the first was to miss the penalty, while the second provided perhaps the two most tension-filled minutes of the match, as the referee, Enrique Cáceres of Paraguay, took an age to review VAR footage of what looked like an elbow by Ronaldo on Morteza Pouraliganji. The contact was there but weak and in the end the referee went for a compromise yellow.
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