Tehran (Iran), Nov 26 (IANS): Iran's crushing 6-2 defeat in the World Cup opener against England was a wake-up call for Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz, forcing him to avoid resorting to the same shocking tactics against Wales.
Facing tremendous pressure from fans and experts over his 'wrong' choice of starting 11, the head coach made a switch from a 5-3-2 versus England to a 4-3-3 against Wales, resulting in a dramatic last-gasp 2-0 win in the stoppage time on Friday.
"Queiroz chose a good starting lineup," said Parviz Mazloumi, former Iranian player and an expert, in an interview with the semi-official Mehr news agency.
"Unlike the match against England in which we were in total disarray and lacked a good plan, our team played a plucky and aggressive game against Wales, grabbing the three points to keep its hope alive for passing the group stage," he continued.
Iran's defense line made no mistake, giving the Welsh side no chance for sniffing the goal, hailed the coach, taking his hat off to players who replaced their lacklustre performances in the opener against the "Three Lions" with brilliant football in the fight against "Dragons" to heal to some extent the wound the "Asiatic Cheetahs" sustained in their first step.
Talking after the game, a jubilant Queiroz said, "We played today with amazing character, which is the profile of our team. We played with a sense of unity, cohesion."
The manager, who was thrown into the air by his men after the final whistle, added, "Sometimes you lose your dignity, your honour, but of course, in our first game we were bleeding in our pride. This was an opportunity to rebound. We played brilliantly and deserved to win."
Nicknamed the "Iranian Messi", forward Sardar Azmoun, a substitute in the opener from the 77th minute, was paired up by Queiroz with top-scorer Mehdi Taremi from scratch to keep the Welsh defense static and use his lethal weapon, reports Xinhua.
It almost worked in the first half when Azmoun passed a ball to Ali Gholizadeh, whose scoring from close range was ruled out as offside by the VAR-assisted referee.
The Bayer Leverkusen forward Azmoun rattled the post and Welsh fans in the stands of Qatar's Ahmad bin Ali Stadium and those glued to their TV sets after the break.
Taremi, who is the popular striker of Porto and on the radar of European giants like AC Milan and Arsenal, was a constant threat in front and set up an assist in the 100th minute converted by advancing right winger Ramin Rezaeian to put the icing on the cake with an emphatic 2-0 win.
Behrouz Soltani, former goalkeeper of Iran and Tehran-based Persepolis, hailed his countrymen's "flawless" play, Iranian Students' News Agency quoted him as saying.
The goalie opined that Iran neutralized the Welsh stars, saying, "Our team had the chance to score four or five times."
Talking about his opposite number Seyyed Hossein Hosseini, he said Hosseini is not to blame for the six goals against England, praising his performance in the second test.
"If we apply the same tactical approach against the USA, we will get a good result," assured Soltani.
Iran has failed to get past the group stage at five World Cups, and the time is ripe for its qualification for the knockout stages.
Given the Group B table, it is a must-win situation for all four teams, Iran, England, Wales, and the USA.
The Asian side's draw against the USA will lead to its elimination if crestfallen Wales beats England.
So, Iran had a better show once again as their true grit and a similar never-say-die attitude on Tuesday to end the drought and storm into the Round of 16 of World Cup 2022.