Team Melli History: Refuse to Lose in Doha

13 October 2004

It was the second round of qualifying for the 2006 World Cup and Iran had found themselves in a tough situation.

Iran was grouped with Jordan, Qatar, and Laos. Only the top team would advance to the final round.

Earlier in the year, Team Melli suffered a shocking loss to Jordan at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.

Manager Branko Ivankovic knew his job was on the line and was in no mood to go away quietly. Branko brought back Khodadad Azizi and Vahid Hashemian.

Hashemian last played for Iran in 2001 but left the squad with resentment towards the coaching staff and federation during 2002 World Cup qualification.

Fortunately, Vahid decided to put his differences aside to help Team Melli.

Iran scored a vital 2-0 victory over Jordan in Amman on 8 September, but everyone knew the clash with Qatar in Doha would not be a walk in the park.

Hashemian put Iran in front early against Qatar after finishing off a pass from Ali Karimi.

But Qatar equalized through Bilal Mohammed nine minutes later to tie up the score at 1-1.

The match remained tied at the interval, but an own goal from Yahya Golmohammadi in the 75th minute put Iran’s World Cup hopes in jeopardy.

Qatar had a 2-1 lead and suddenly it seemed possible for Iran to miss out on a second consecutive World Cup tournament.

Three minutes later the match was tied after substitute Arash Borhani leveled the score at 2-2.

But a tie would not be good enough. Iran had to win.

Team Melli continued to go after the winning goal. In the 90th minute, the ball found its way to another second half substitute: Khodadad Azizi.

Azizi quickly got the ball to Mehdi Mahdavikia and the dangerous midfielder sent the ball in front of the goal to see it smashed into the roof of the net by Vahid Hashemian.

It was an amazing 3-2 victory for Iran. One month later, an easy 7-0 win over Laos won the group for Team Melli.

Iran went on to qualify to the 2006 World Cup without any drama in the final round.

Team Melli fans will always look back at Azizi’s goal against Australia as the biggest moment in Team Melli History, but Hashemian’s brace against Qatar must never be forgotten.

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