Bahrain: A Familiar Enemy

There are plenty of national teams in the Middle East that aren’t on good terms with Team Melli. But Bahrain is a team that made a name for itself by being a thorn in the side of Iran.

Nobody can forget the 2002 World Cup qualification campaign when Iran was held to a scoreless draw by Bahrain in Tehran.

But the biggest disaster took place in Manama when Bahrain defeated Iran 3-1 to deny Team Melli an automatic qualification spot to Korea/Japan.

It was an embarrassing moment for Iranian football fans and the Bahrainis displayed perhaps the most classless act in football history when they celebrated with the Saudi Arabian flag.

Iran got the best of Bahrain in the third-place match of the 2004 Asian Cup but Team Melli earned the perfect revenge when it defeated Bahrain in June 2005 at Azadi Stadium to qualify to the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

The last time Iran and Bahrain crossed paths in World Cup qualification was in the preliminary round for the 2014 World Cup.

Iran destroyed Bahrain 6-0 in Tehran and of course nobody can forget the 1-1 draw when Mojtaba Jabari spoiled the party for the Bahrainis by scoring in the dying minutes of stoppage time.

It was only a draw but it cost Bahrain a spot in the final round of World Cup qualification and it was the perfect payback after Iranian fans were not allowed into the stadium in Manama.

Ironically, Bahrain has not made it to the final round of the last two World Cup qualification tournaments.

Bahrain clearly has regressed over the last eight years and I do expect Iran to easily defeat Bahrain at Azadi Stadium.

Some football experts think both fixtures will be easy wins, but I think that Bahrain will find a way to frustrate Iran in Manama.

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