In a first half which Iran dominated, they could have easily scored a couple of more goals, but instead went in half-time level at 1-1.
Iran’s play was characterized by fluid, and quick-paced football, something which had rarely been seen in Iran in recent times. Credit must go to Branko Ivankovic who had set up his side perfectly to not only find the Mexicans off-guard but to dominate the first half, creating at least 3 clear-cut goal scoring opportunities.
But, Iran should have expected nothing less than a rejuvanated Mexican side in the second half, and that is exactly what happened. Mexico began to assert themselves, whilst Iran kept on pushing further backwards into their own half, launching long balls towards the ineffective Daei and the hard-working but not pacy Hashemian. Mexico piled on the pressure whilst Branko looked like a coach with no answers and too afraid to tinker with things in case it backfired. He just sat there as Sven Goran Eriksson did 4 years ago against a 10-man Brazilian side. Kudos to Andranik Teymourian, Mehdi Mahdavikia and Javad Nekounam who all played their socks off in the scorching heat throughout the 90 minutes.
Mexico finally broke the barrier in the 76th minute through the impressive Omar Bravo and before Branko could do anything, not that he was planning to, Mexico scored again. At 2-1, Iran’s players had their heads down. It would not have been easy for a side stuck in their own half for 25 minutes to suddenly turn on the charm offensive, but 3-1 was goodnight and sweetdreams to Iran. Finally, Branko sent on the fired-up Arash Borhani who tried in vain to make a difference on the left wing, pushing substitute Madanchi into a confusing left back position.
Lots of questions come to mind. Why was an unfit Ali Karimi playing? Was picking Ali Daei such a wise choice? But the biggest question of all was why didnt Branko come to his players rescue in the second half when they needed him most?