LINUS LINDAHL / AIPS* in AL AIN: No fewer than six outstanding issues in the second round draw were decided by the climactic last duels of the group stage of the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013.
At kickoff both Iran and Austria knew that victory would keep them alive into the knockout stages . . . while defeat would condemn them to the dreaded early flight home to Tehran or Vienna.
One lone goal was all it took and it arrived after 36 minutes from Iran’s Youssef Seyyedi. He turned two defenders as he twisted nimbly through 180 degrees before jabbing the ball through goalkeeper Alexander Schlager.
Seyyedi’s skill was impressive but coach Hermann Stadler will wonder all the way back to Vienna about how and why none of Austria’s defenders managed to close him down.
Stadler may have started fearing the worst some 17 minutes earlier when an angled drive from Daniel Ripic struck the Iranian crossbar with goalkeeper Mahdi Amini nowhere.
Ripic’s own luck did not improve in the second half as Austria pressed forward with greater urgency and Iran defended with increasing resolution while seeking a second, killing goal on the occasional counter attack.
On the hour Ripic forged a path through a clutch of defenders only to be felled by a convergent sandwich of goalkeeper and defender. Bolivian referee Raul Orosco awarded neither a penalty nor the alternative of a yellow card for simulation.
The combination of victories for Iran in this game and Argentina against Canada in the other, simultaneous, Group F match in Dubai meant that everything suddenly slotted into place in the second round jigsaw.
Iran’s piece of the puzzle sees them staying in Al Ain to take on free-scoring Nigeria.
* AIPS, the international sports journalists association, is running a Young Reporters course at the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 with the support of the local organising committee and FIFA
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