TEHRAN (Tasnim) – The match between Australia and Iran in the second leg of 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification play-off was named among the Five Iconic Asian Qualifiers by the-afc.com.
With 31 of the 32 places at the 1998 FIFA World Cup in France having already been secured, Australia and Iran faced off aiming to book the last ticket. And the sides threw up a classic.
Aiming to reach their first FIFA World Cup since 1974, Australia – then part of the Oceania Football Confederation – returned for the second leg on home soil after claiming an impressive 1-1 draw in front of more than 120,00 0 at Tehran’s iconic Azadi Stadium.
Harry Kewell then sent a packed Melbourne Cricket Stadium into raptures just after the half hour of the return meeting, and when Aurelio Vidmar doubled the hosts’ advantage early in the second half, the writing appeared to be on the wall for Iran. But what came next stunned the Socceroos.
Needing two goals to progress to its first FIFA World Cup since 1978, Iran threw itself a lifeline with 15 minutes to play when Karim Bagheri finished from seven yards after some scrappy defending from the host. Suddenly there was hope for the Iranians and fear inside the stadium.
Incredibly, the comeback was complete just four minutes later as Ali Daei turned and slipped a beautiful ball through to Khodadad Azizi, who coolly tucked the ball past Mark Bosnich into the back of the net to spark joyous scenes among the Iranians.
The away goals victory saw Iran return to the FIFA World Cup after a 20-year hiatus and there were fond memories of France ‘98, where it went on to defeat the United States for its first-ever victory in the competition.