Canberra: Iran coach Carlos Queiroz expressed huge pride in his players’ fighting spirit after their efforts in a blockbuster match against Iraq that finished 3-3 after 120 minutes before they fell to a narrow 7-6 penalty shootout loss in the AFC Asian Cup Australia 2015 quarter-final at Canberra Stadium on Friday.
Queiroz saw his side take the lead midway through the first half courtesy of striker Sardar Azmoun before being forced to play with 10 men from the 42nd minute of the tie onwards after defender Mehrdad Pooladi’s sending off for two bookable offences.
Ahmed Yasin then drew Iraq level on 56 minutes but in extra-time Iran equalised twice through Morteza Pouraliganji and Reza Ghoochannejhad after going 2-1 and 3-2 down during the additional 30 minutes.
But after Iran substitute Vahid Amiri drilled his penalty onto the post in sudden death, Salam Shakir held his nerve to claim victory for Iraq with the subsequent, and winning, spot-kick.
“The Iranian players did everything possible to turn the game our way. I am very proud of the way they played the game and the way they fought,” said Queiroz.
“We go home now and it hurts a lot because the players worked hard and committed themselves, they deserve something more and they deserve respect from the fans.
“They have all my love and all my support because of the way they fought for the whole 120 minutes and penalties, and I feel very, very proud to be coach of this team and these players.”
Despite the disappointment for Queiroz, the visibly emotional Portuguese coach was magnanimous in defeat and praised victors Iraq who had ended a winless run of more than a decade against their regional rivals.
“Congratulations to the Iraq team for qualifying for the semi-finals. The Iraqi players deserve all respect and consideration from Iranian fans,” added the former Real Madrid and Portugal coach.
“I wish Iraq the best of luck for the next game against Korea Republic, they played a good game and I hope they have success in their next match.”
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