AFC - Islamic Republic of Iran were eliminated from the AFC U23 Championship Thailand 2020 title race despite a 1-0 win over China PR at Tinsulanon Stadium on Wednesday.
After wasting a string of chances, Iran finally took the lead through Omid Noorafkan’s 87th minute penalty, but it wasn’t enough to extend their stay in the competition, with Uzbekistan advancing on goal difference despite their 2-1 loss to Korea Republic in Pathum Thani
While Iran claimed a somewhat hollow first win of the competition, China PR’s defeat meant they finished Group C without a point or goal after three matches.
After a draw and a loss in their opening two matches, Iran’s hopes of staying in Thailand beyond Thursday relied on a change of fortunes, but Hamid Estili’s side endured another wasteful first half which ended scoreless despite 14 shots at goal to China’s three.
Impressive Chinese custodian Chen Wei made a point blank save from a Jafar Salmani header within three minutes, and it proved to be a sign of things to come as Iran created, then squandered, chance after chance.
Allahyar Sayyadmanesh twice forced Chen into fine reflex saves, and Ali Shojaei narrowly missed the target with a header, before Mehdi Mehdikani ended the first half by failing to find the back of the net from a distance of just three yards in stoppage time.
With Uzbekistan level with Korea Republic at the interval in Pathum Thani, Iran emerged from the dressing room in need of a significant turnaround on both sides of the country, and Estili looked to boost their attacking stocks with the introduction of Mehdi Ghayedi.
A four-pronged frontline meant Iran continued to threaten, but Team Melli came close to falling behind themselves when a thunderous Chen Pu drive rattled the crossbar in the 66th minute.
But most of the chances came in Iran’s attacking third, and they were given a lifeline when awarded a late penalty, with captain Noorafkan stepping up to stroke them into the lead.
Estili’s side poured forward in search of the all-important second, but Ghayedi headed wide when Chen had left an open net, squandering one of the last opportunities of the game as Iran’s Olympic dream was dashed.