Iran became the second team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by beating Uzbekistan 2-0 late Monday, sparking celebrations in the streets.

It is the first time Iran has qualified for consecutive World Cups, and will be its fifth appearance at football’s marquee tournament.

Sardar Azmoun scored in the 23rd minute and Mehdi Taremi in the 88th at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Iran, managed by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz since 2011, tops Group A of Asian qualifying. The team is unbeaten from eight games and eight points clear of third-placed Uzbekistan with two qualifiers remaining, so cannot be denied a top-two finish and an automatic spot in Russia next year.

South Korea is in second place, a point ahead of Uzbekistan with a game in hand.

Iran has yet to concede a goal in qualifying in a run which has renewed the confidence with fans.

Vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri was present at the stadium for the game, among the almost 60,000 supporters celebrating when the referee blew full-time.

The Iranian players celebrated with the national flag, broadcast live on TV with a rousing soundtrack. Men, woman and children spilled into the streets with flags and chants and motorists honked their horns.

In the main streets and squares Tehrani residents gathered and chanted “Queiroz, we love you,” and “Queiroz, thank you.”

Ashkan Kasraeian drove with his wife and friends to be part of the celebrations.

“I came out to join this national celebration,” he said. “I am proud of my national football team and I love Carlos Queiroz.”

He said he hopes Iran will retain Queiroz has head coach even after the World Cup.

Brazil was the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia, and Iran represents the first of four automatic qualifiers from Asia.

Asian Football Confederation president Sheikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa praised the consistency of the Iran team.

“I hope their qualification for the FIFA World Cup will inspire the team to do Asia proud next year in Russia,” Sheikh Salman said.

The top two teams in both Asian groups will qualify automatically for Russia, and the two third-place teams going into a series of playoffs for another spot.

South Korea was targeting a win over Qatar on Tuesday to solidify second spot in the group. Group B leader Japan was also playing in Tehran, the neutral venue for Iraq’s scheduled home game.

India beat Kyrgyzstan

Bengaluru: Captain Sunil Chhetri stamped his class yet again as he scored the match-winner to fire India to a 1-0 win over Kyrgyzstan in a fast-pace and entertaining Asian Cup qualifier match here on Wednesday.

Chhetri drilled a lot shot with his right foot off a fine pass from Jeje Lalpekhlua in the 69th minute to lead India to a crucial win in the home leg tie of the Group A third round qualifiers of the 2019 Asian Cup.

Chhetri, who scored his 54th goal in his 94th match, led from the front throughout the match. Playing behind the lone striker Jeje, he was in the thick of things, at times falling back deep to help the defenders, setting up his team-mates and also taking shots on his own.

With the win, India sat atop the group with six points – from two wins – ahead of Kyrgyzstan and Myanmar who both have three points from two matches. Macau are yet to open account from their two matches.

All the four teams will play home and away matches and the two top sides will qualify for the 2019 AFC Asian Cup to be held in United Arab Emirates.

The hosts, who had beaten Myanmar 1-0 in their first match of the qualifiers, notched up their seventh official international match on the trot.

Kyrgyzstan had better ball possession and more attack but they found wanting in their finishing. The Indian back-four of Sandesh Jhingan, Anas Edathodika, Pritam Kotal and Narayan Das were also superb in defending.

The visiting side were denied by the upright in the second half while Indian goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu made at least three brilliant saves to ensure that the hosts walked away with all three points.

Kyrgyzstan, who are ranked at 132 as against India’s 100, suffered a jolt as soon as the match started with their key midfielder Anton Zemilanukhin being stretchered out after a collision with Gurpreet in the fourth minute. Edgar Bernhardt took his place.

The 15th minute was all about Kyrgyz onslaught which kept the seizable crowd at the Sree Kanteerava Stadium quiet.

It was due to the brilliance of Gurpreet India did not concede a goal in the 15th minute.

Bakhtiar Duyshobekov had a low shot from a nice buildup but Gurpreet brilliantly saved diving to his right.

India slowly clawed their way back into the match and even threatened to take the lead soon.


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