Iran scored twice in the final moments of stoppage time to keep alive their hopes of reaching the World Cup knockout stages for the first time with a thrilling last-gasp victory over a stunned 10-man Wales.
Wales, who had keeper Wayne Hennessey sent off late in the match, looked to have survived the Iranian onslaught in their Group B encounter at Al Rayyan'sAhmad Bin Ali Stadium, before substitute Rouzbeh Cheshmi found the net and Ramin Rezaeian sealed the win with seconds left.
Iran had come out fighting in the second half and hit the post twice in a matter of seconds, with Sardar Azmoun's shot rebounding to Ali Gholizadeh, whose follow-up cannoned off the upright and back to the waiting Azmoun, who headed tamely into keeper Hennessey's hands.
Qualification to the last 16 is in their own hands with a showdown with the USA coming on Tuesday.
"It was really very emotional, especially because we rebounded from a difficult situation," head coach Carlos Queiroz said, referring to their opening 6-2 defeat to England.
"We talk about the players, their goals. I don't have words to congratulate my players, they were brilliant."
"We played with amazing, amazing character, which is the profile of our team usually. We always play with a sense of unity, cohesion, always. Today we made it very clear football is a game of different moments."
"Nobody likes to lose, and especially when you lose by those numbers. It is a tough job. But this is the beauty of the game, there is only one game in front of you."
Iran World Cup 2022 squad
Goalkeepers: Alireza Beiranvand (Persepolis), Amir Abedzadeh (Ponferradina), Seyed Hossein Hosseini (Esteghlal), Payam Niazmand (Sepahan)
Defenders: Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens), Morteza Pouraliganji (Persepolis), Ramin Rezaeian (Sepahan), Milad Mohammadi (AEK Athens), Hossein Kanaanizadegan (Al Ahli), Shojae Khalilzadeh (Al Ahli), Sadegh Moharrami (Dinamo Zagreb), Rouzbeh Cheshmi (Esteghlal), Majid Hosseini (Kayserispor), Abolfazl Jalali (Esteghlal)
Midfielders: Ahmad Noorollahi (Shabab Al Ahli), Saman Ghoddos (Brentford), Vahid Amiri (Persepolis), Saeid Ezatolahi (Vejle), Alireza Jahanbakhsh (Feyenoord), Mehdi Torabi (Persepolis), Ali Gholizadeh (Charleroi), Ali Karimi (Kayserispor)
Forwards: Karim Ansarifard (Omonia Nicosia), Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen), Mehdi Taremi (Porto)
Who are the star names in the squad?
Iran’s main star in Qatar can still be Mehdi Taremi, who scored 20 league goals last season to fire Porto to the Portuguese title – and netted twice in defeat against England in their opener in Qatar.
Other names to look out for are Bayer Leverkusen forward Sardar Azmoun, and Alireza Jahanbaksh, the captain, who once scored with an overhead kick for Brighton against Chelsea.
Why did Iran's players refuse to sign their national anthem?
Iran’s footballers won admirers around the world for courageously taking a stand against the oppressive regime in Tehran despite the risk of personal reprisals.
Before the start of their World Cup game against England, Iran’s players refused to sing their country’s national anthem, while their captain spoke up in support of the anti-government protests that have resulted in more than 300 deaths so far.
Emboldened by the leadership of their team, supporters in the stadium also voiced their dissent by jeering the national anthem and holding up placards demanding greater freedoms for women.
They included female football fans who were attending a football match for the first time in their lives because they are not allowed to do so in their home country.
Iran has been engulfed by mass demonstrations after 22-year-old woman Mahsa Amini died in custody while she was being detained by the so-called morality police for breaking the country’s strict Islamic dress code.
As well as hundreds of deaths, the protests have resulted in thousands of arrests in a country that uses torture and arbitrary detention to crush dissent. There were also calls for Iran to be thrown out of the World Cup tournament.
The Iranian team had, until their first fixture, remained vehemently apolitical but the players bravely decided to use the platform given to them by the World Cup to embarrass Tehran on an international stage.
What are Iran’s fixtures?
What is Iran’s World Cup record?
Iran are beginning to establish themselves as World Cup regulars, with the 2022 World Cup in Qatar being the third consecutive tournament for which they have qualified.
They have appeared in six World Cup finals in total (1978, 1998, 2006, 2014, 2018 and 2022), but have never reached the knockout stages. Their 1-0 win over Morocco at the Russia World Cup in 2018 was only their second win in the tournament.
Their results in recent times have not gone according to what Iran’s performances merited, however. The four points they got in 2018 (which included a draw against Portugal and a narrow loss against Spain) would usually have been enough to progress from the group stages. In 2014 it took a late moment of magic from Lionel Messi to stop Iran holding finalists Argentina to a goalless draw.
Argentina | Australia | Belgium | Brazil | Cameroon | Canada | Costa Rica | Croatia | Denmark | Ecuador | England | France | Germany | Ghana | Iran | Japan | Mexico | Morocco | Netherlands | Poland | Portugal | Qatar | Saudi Arabia | Senegal | Serbia | South Korea | Spain | Switzerland | Tunisia | Uruguay | USA | Wales
Iran are currently a best price of 250/1 to win the World Cup.