Iran  Turkmenistan

AFC - Defender Hossein Kanani scored twice as the Islamic Republic of Iran cruised to a 5-0 win over Turkmenistan in Tehran on Thursday to stay on top of Group E of the Preliminary Joint Qualification – Round 2 for the FIFA World Cup 2026 and AFC Asian Cup Saudi Arabia 2027™.

Sardar Azmoun, Mohammad Mohebi and Omid Noorafkan were also on target at the Azadi Stadium for Team Melli, who joined Uzbekistan on seven points from three games with Amir Ghalenoi’s side leading the standings on goal-difference at the halfway point.

The Iranians will next travel to Ashgabat to face Turkmenistan again on Tuesday when victory would be enough to guarantee their progress to the next phase of the preliminaries.

Saeed Ezatolahi saw an early effort from distance tipped over the crossbar by Rustem Ahallyyew before Kanani put his side in front in the 10th minute from the resulting corner.

Turkmenistan only partially cleared Saman Ghoddos’ delivery and, when the ball was swung back into the penalty area by Saleh Hardani, Kanani glanced a deft header into the bottom corner of the goal.

Three minutes later the Iranians doubled their advantage as Ghoddos’ attempted through ball was bundled into the path of Azmoun and he gleefully accepted the opportunity to strike beyond Ahallyyew.

Three minutes into the second half Kanani added the third for the hosts – and his second of the night - when Turkmenistan failed to clear after Mehdi Taremi headed across the face of goal, the ball eventually ending up at the Iranian defender’s feet.

Kanani’s initial shot was saved by Ahallyyew, but the Persepolis man made no mistake as he slammed home the rebound from inside the six yard box.

In the 56th minute the Iranians stormed forward again, with Taremi this time leading the charge. The FC Porto striker burst through the middle to feed his pass into the path of Mohebi, and he slotted the ball under Ahallyyew for Iran’s fourth.

Two minutes into injury time Noorafkan put the icing on the cake for the hosts, slotting his shot home from 20 yards out, beating Ahallyyew low and to his left with the ball flying into the bottom corner as Iran stayed on track for the next round.