Bosnia-Herzegovina secured their first ever World Cup victory with a comfortable 3-1 win over Iran Wednesday, spoiling Iran’s chance of reaching the last 16 of the World Cup.
Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsajevic gave previously eliminated Bosnia-Herzegovina victory in the Europeans’ final match of their debut World Cup.
Carlos Queiroz’s Iranians had to win in Salvador and hope Nigeria lost to Argentina in Porto Alegre to have any chance of progressing.
But it was Bosnia who started stronger. They took a deserved lead when Dzeko’s shot from 20-metres found the net via the post in the 23rd minute.
Pjanic’s calm finish on the hour doubled the advantage and though Reza Ghoochannejhad pulled one back late on, an immediate break converted by Vrsajevic ensured the win.
Nigeria qualified for the knock-out phase in second, on four points, despite losing 3-2 to Argentina while Iran’s defeat condemned them to finish bottom of Group F with one. Bosnia claimed third with the win and three points.
Before kick-off, Iran knew that nothing less than victory would give them a chance of reaching the last 16, but history was not on their side. In 11 previous matches at the World Cup finals, they had won only once.
Regardless of the requirement to find a first win and first goal in Brazil, Iran again adopted a safety-first mentality. Bosnia, free from the pressure of needing a result, quickly established control of the midfield.
In a fashion similar to their match with Argentina, Iran were defending deeply but on this occasion they were way too passive in protecting their final third. They would be punished midway through the half as Bosnia opened the scoring.
Dzeko took a short pass from Pjanic and having easily evaded some loose marking, he sent an uncontested shot trundling into the bottom corner from outside the box. It was not the cleanest of strikes but the accuracy left Alireza Haghighi helpless.
From the very beginning it had been Bosnia, offering a true attacking edge through Dzeko, who were the better team. The Manchester City striker had watched colleague Vedad Ibisevic write a small piece of history by becoming the first Bosnian to score at a World Cup, in the opening loss to Argentina, and was determined not to let this opportunity pass by.
After just four minutes Dzeko’s stinging half-volley brought out the best in Haghighi. A cross from the left then provided him with another sight of goal which was spurned with a weak header.
At this point Iran had scarcely shown anything going forward but that changed with the loss of the opening goal as they sought an immediate equalizer. With Asmir Begovic flailing in response to Masoud Shojaei’s deflected shot, the bar came to his rescue.
Iran failed to build on this and though rarely overwhelmed by Bosnia in the second half, they could neither find a way to hold possession nor become an effective threat on the counter-attack.
As such, it was no surprise when Bosnia scored a decisive second goal in the 59th minute to seal their first win at the World Cup.
Tino-Sven Susic slipped a pass through the defence for Pjanic to slot home from inside the box after Seyed Hosseini gave the ball away to Dzeko.
Iran seemed to throw in the towel with the substitution of the creative Ashkan Dejagah 20 minutes from time but Ghoochannejhad tapped in Javad Nekounam’s cross from close range to restore a modicum of hope.
But any opportunity Iran had for a franatic finale vanished immediately as Bosnia sent a fine counter-attack down the right wing which ended with Vrsajevic shooting in via the far post.
Regardless of what happened in Porto Alegre between Argentina and Nigeria, Iran’s campaign was destined to end with a whimper, not a bang.