Al-Monitor – “Now the end is here,” wrote Carlos Queiroz on his Instagram page. The 65-year-old Portuguese coach had led Iran’s national soccer team for eight years. His emotional farewell followed a 3-0 defeat by Japan in the AFC Asian Cup semi-finals at Hazza Bin Zayed Stadium in the Emirati city of al-Ain on Jan. 28.
Right into the second half, Iran was outplaying Japan, threatening the other side’s goal at every chance. But a mistake in the second half changed the game’s course. Japan scored their first goal after five Iranian players gave up the ball to a Japanese counterpart as they argued with the referee. The moment decided the fate of the game, and perhaps taught the players an unforgettable lesson.
The mental breakdown following the first goal seemed to be what the Japanese had hoped for. A successful penalty kick followed, and then an injury-time third goal, which left the Iranians numb with the unexpected defeat.
Prior to its defeat by the Samurai Blue, Iran had offered one of its most spectacular performances in a tournament yet. It won four out of five games and kept its net untouched. The national team had raised the bar, helping fans at home realize their dream of seeing the team in an AFC Asian Cup final match for the first time since 1976.