Football: Iran beat Uzbekistan 2-0 to seal World Cup berth

Iran's Vahid Amiri (centre) in action against Uzbekistan during the World Cup qualifying match on June 12, 2017.
Iran's Vahid Amiri (centre) in action against Uzbekistan during the World Cup qualifying match on June 12, 2017. PHOTO: EPA

TEHERAN (REUTERS) - Iran became the second team to qualify for next year's World Cup finals - and the first from Asia - as they beat Uzbekistan 2-0 with goals from Sardar Azmoun and Mehdi Taremi at the Azadi Stadium on Monday (June 12).

Azmoun's goal midway through the first half set Iran on track to qualify for the 2018 event in Russia before Taremi added a second two minutes from time as Iran reached back-to-back World Cup tournaments for the first time.

The three-time Asian champions, who also missed a penalty just after the break, join Brazil as the qualified nations so far after Iran secured a fifth World Cup appearance.

The win means Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz's Iran team will finish in the top two places in Group A of Asia's final round of qualifying. Uzbekistan are eight points adrift of the leaders in third place and have only two games remaining.

The top two teams in each of Asia's two qualifying groups advance automatically to the finals while the teams in third place go through a series of playoffs.

Azmoun opened the scoring in the 23rd minute when Alireza Jahanbaksh's through ball found the FC Rostov striker with time and space behind the Uzbek defence to roll the ball under goalkeeper Aleksandr Lobanov and into the net.

Captain Masoud Shojaei squandered the chance to double Iran's advantage five minutes into the second half when he fired a penalty over the bar after Taremi had been bundled over in the box by Akmal Shorakhmedov.

But Taremi calmed Iran's nerves when he added the second goal late on by curling a low shot into the corner of Lobanov's goal to spark celebrations amongst the home supporters.