Bosnia-Herzegovina ended their maiden World Cup on a positive note with a 3-1 win over Iran in Salvador on Wednesday.
Defeats to Argentina and Nigeria ended their hopes of qualification, but they bounced back at the Arena Fonte Nova, and goals from Edin Dzeko, Miralem Pjanic and Avdija Vrsajevic gave their fans something to cheer.
Bosnia will be kicking themselves for years for not making it out of this poor group. Susic threw it away against Nigeria.— Shaul Adar (@ShaulAdar) June 25, 2014
Iran did get on the scoresheet for the first time in the competition through Reza Ghoochannejad, but securing the victory that could have taken them through to the next round proved beyond them.
Bosnia-Herzegovina’s first World Cup appearance has been a disappointing one, with their star man Dzeko failing to carry any real threat.
Coach Safet Susic remained loyal to the Manchester City forward and Dzeko looked lively early on against Iran.
On four minutes, the forward demonstrated his strength when holding off his marker, spinning and firing in a shot that keeper Alireza Haghighi tipped over the bar.
Nine minutes in, Dzeko showed his threat in the air when climbing high and heading on target, but Haghighi was the equal of the effort.
Iran, who came into the game without a goal to their name, were content to play on the break. They dashed forward at pace on 23 minutes, but the move broke down and they were made to pay a heavy price.
The Bosnians shifted the ball forward to Dzeko on the edge of the box and he cut onto his left foot before drilling a low shot beyond Haghighi.
For a side who have not been clinical in front of goal, falling behind so early could have been a huge headache for Iran. But they fashioned an impressive response and only the woodwork prevented them from drawing level.
Masoud Shojaei showed excellent feet in the box to create space and he clipped a shot over Asmir Begovic, but the ball hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced away.
Iran still had hopes of qualifying heading into the second half, provided they could turn the game around, but their dreams were dashed by a classy goal from Pjanic on the hour.
The midfielder held his run superbly to remain onside, before taking one touch and curling a low finish into the corner.
Iran kept probing, and a fine cross from Javad Nekounam on 82 minutes was turned home by Reza for their first goal of the tournament.
The goal briefly raised hope of an amazing fightback but Bosnia went straight up the other end to score through Vrsajevic.
Bosnia’s attentions will now turn to their Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.
They may well have a new man at the helm, with Susic likely to leave his position, but the professional way they approached this game will at least raise hope that they can mount a challenge.
For Iran, the hope is that they can use their appearance on the biggest stage to encourage more people to take up the game. The image of Iran's president Hassan Rouhani watching the game in a football shirt certainly cannot do any harm.
|Bosnia-Herzegovina Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half rating||2nd-half rating|
|Iran Player Ratings|
|Player||1st-half rating||2nd-half rating|
|Ehsan Haji Safi||6||6|
|Amir Hossein Sadeghi||5||6|
|Alireza Jahan Bakhsh||6|
|Karim Ansari Fard||6|
Per Fifa.com, Bosnia coach Susic felt his side were fully deserving of the win and lamented instances that went against them earlier in the group
We dominated the game and deserved to win. Although I know that Iran wanted to progress, the victory was important for us. We can now go home with our heads held high. We wanted to leave a good impression, but we’re not satisfied because we think that we could have done more. I’m not being arrogant when I say that, but if we’d played a bit better against Nigeria and had a bit more luck, I think we would have made the Round of 16.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz said:
I have to congratulate Bosnia and Herzegovina, they deserved to win today and, without disrespect to Argentina or Nigeria, I believe that they should have qualified from this group. They have great players who play for great clubs – and I do believe that they are the best team of the group. They were on another level and we are not at that level due the facilities in Iran. We finish our job here with no regrets, no excuses.