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Finals
 
21 June 1998 Group F Lyon - Stade de Gerland
United States Iran
Off-field issues between these two nations were forgotten for 90 enthralling minutes as the United States and Iran played out one of the most enjoyable matches of France 98 so far. Both sides needed three points if they were to stand any chance of progressing to the second stage, resulting in a marvellously open contest with end-to-end action throughout. Two quality goals from Estili and Mahdavikia appeared to have settled the match for Iran before McBride's late goal for America ensured a grandstand finish. In a bright refreshing opening there was no lack of enthusiasm from the USA who were desperately unlucky not to take the lead after just three minutes when Brian McBride saw his towering header strike the angle of crossbar and post with 'keeper Ahmad Abedzadeh well beaten. Iran were then denied what looked a blatant penalty on 21 minutes when the live-wire Khodadad Azizi raced onto Tom Dooley's mishit backpass to poke the ball past American 'keeper Kasey Keller, who made no attempt for the ball when blocking the striker. However, the Swiss official, possibly taking FIFA's 'fair play day' a little too literally, turned down the Iranian appeals. It was terrific entertainment and next it was the US who were left ruing their luck when Claudio Reyna's 33rd-minute shot struck the bottom of Abedzadeh's left-hand post and again bounced to safety. Iran took the lead a little against the run of play on 40 minutes with a superbly worked goal down the right flank finished off majestically by Hamid Reza Estili's supreme header. After the break Iran began to control proceedings with Karim Bagheri spraying passes all over the pitch, taking advantage of the space behind the American wing-backs who were bombing forward in support of their strikers. Asian Young Player of the Year for 1998, Mahdavikia, looked a quality act and was ever dangerous down the right flank, but two US substitutions just before the hour mark sparked a mini revival for the Americans, as Ernie Stewart and Preki Radosavlje replaced Roy Wegerle and Tab Ramos. David Regis became the third player to hit the Iranian woodwork and Abedzadeh made a stunning point-blank save from Frankie Hedjuk with 15 minutes remaining. However, it was Iran who caught out the US on the counterattack when Mahdavikia ran through on 84 minutes to cap a magnificent individual display with the second goal, and Ali Daei so nearly made it three just a couple of minutes later only for Keller and then Eddie Pope denying the big striker. The Americans gave themselves a lifeline when McBride headed in a right-wing corner with three minute left on the clock and the four minutes of stoppage time provided a frantic finale as Iran held on to achieve their first victory in the World Cup finals. The result means that the US are eliminated from the competition whilst Iran will qualify if they beat Germany on Thursday in Montpellier, although it looks as though the two Group F favourites Yugoslavia and Germany will go through.

(1-2) McBride (87). Cobi Jones sent over a deep corner from the right which evaded everyone to reach the American striker at the far post and his lunging downward header from six yards crossed the line despite desperate attempts to clear by Iran defender Mohammad Khakpour.

(0-1) Estili (40). Javad Zarrincheh broke forward down the right flank and cut the ball back towards the penalty spot where the midfielder timed his run to perfection to score with a magnificent soaring header that looped over 'keeper Keller and into his top right-hand corner.

(0-2) Mahdavikia (84). A swift Iranian counterattack saw Ali Daei's reverse pass set the flying wing-back clear from the halfway line for a free run at goal and with Regis in pursuit Mahdavikia cut in from the left before firing home right-footed across Keller and just inside the far post from 15 yards.

 
 
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Page created by Christakis Ioannou on Monday, 22 June 1998
 
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