Iran has become only the second country to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia after completing a 2-0 victory just before midnight Tehran time on June 12.
The Islamic Republic is a football-mad country with several well-followed first division teams and even several national minor leagues. In recent years, the government has invested more funds into training the next generation of footballers.
Many streets of Iran’s cities were jam-packed with celebrating fans and cars driven by horn-tooting Iranians after goals by Sardar Azmound in the 23rd minute and Mehdi Taremi in the 88th minute secured the win and qualification.
Iran’s social media was abuzz with football fever, with thousands expressing their support for the football team.
FIFA’s Twitter account declared after the win: “Qualified! Iran join Brazil & hosts Russia at the 2018 #WorldCup.” Iranian national team player Alireza Jahanbaksh posted: “Russia here we come! So proud of my team, the staff and my country.”
With the finals to be hosted in Russia, Iranians may be exempt from requiring an entry visa given that relations between Tehran and Moscow continue to warm.
Thousands of Iranians are expected to head to Moscow to support the team, as flights between the two countries are some of the cheapest taking off from and landing at Tehran. In previous world cup finals, it was largely only Iranian expatriates who were able to see their national team take to the pitch.
Iran qualified for its first FIFA world cup in 1978. The country also made it to the 1998, 2006 and 2014 finals.
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