AFC President Shaikh Salman bin Ebrahim Al Khalifa has hailed the Islamic Republic of Iran for sealing Asia’s first spot at FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 after a hard-fought 2-0 victory over Uzbekistan on Monday at the Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
“On behalf of the Asian football family, I would like to congratulate Islamic Republic of Iran for their consistency in becoming the first Asian team to qualify for the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018.
“This achievement reflects the hard work and commitment of the Football Federation Islamic Republic of Iran to succeed at the highest international level. In the AFC’s Vision and Mission our objective was to have success on the global stage, I hope their qualification for the FIFA World Cup will inspire the team to do Asia proud next year in Russia.
“As we approach the closing stages of qualification, I wish all our teams chasing the remaining places the very best of luck.”
Team Melli’s victory on Monday not only guaranteed their safe passage to FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 but ensured they did so in style, with two matches to spare in the group stage.
In doing so, Iran will now compete at a fifth – and second consecutive – FIFA World Cup finals, putting them on par with Japan as Asia’s second most consistent qualifiers for the global event, and behind Korea Republic who have appeared nine times. Both East Asian teams are currently in pole position to qualify for next year’s extravaganza in Russia, returning to action later tonight.
Korea Republic travel to Qatar targeting three points, and Group A’s second qualifying spot, while Group B leaders Japan face Iraq in Tehran knowing that a win will move them three points clear of both Saudi Arabia and Australia, both of which are level on points.
The top two teams in each group will qualify automatically for Russia 2018 and the third-placed teams will meet each other for the chance to play the fourth-placed team in the CONCACAF final qualifying group.