Tue Oct 13, 2015 7:12PM
Iranian footballer Ashkan Dejagah (L) is confronted by a Japanese player during a friendly match between the national football teams of Iran (players in white) and Japan at the Azadi Stadium, western Tehran, Iran, on October 13, 2015. (© Mehr news agency)
Iranian footballer Ashkan Dejagah (L) is confronted by a Japanese player during a friendly match between the national football teams of Iran (players in white) and Japan at the Azadi Stadium, western Tehran, Iran, on October 13, 2015. (© Mehr news agency)

Iran men’s national football team has tied with the Asian powerhouse, Japan, in a friendly fixture staged as part of preparations for the second round of 2018 Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) World Cup qualifiers.

In a match held at the Azadi Stadium in the western part of the Iranian capital, Tehran, on Tuesday afternoon, both teams did not put in an impressive performance for nearly half of the first period.

In the 21st minute, Iran’s 28-year-old Vouria Ghafouri, who plays for Sepahan in the Persian Gulf Pro League, was taken off on a stretcher after Japanese player Gotoku Sakai fouled him. Ghafouri was replaced by Mehdi Torabi two minutes later.

Iran fans paid tributes to Hadi Norouzi, the late captain of Tehran-based powerhouse Persepolis who lost his life after suffering a heart attack earlier this month, the next minute, before Japan’s Makoto Hasebe, 31, aimed at the hosts’ goal in the 26th minute and fired a shot, which went awry.

Less than 10 minutes later, Ehsan Hajsafi passed the ball well to Iranian professional footballer Sardar Azmoun, and opened up a marvelous opportunity for the 20-year-old to score the opener. Azmoun, however, did not managed to grasp the chance and Japanese goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima collected the ball.

This photo shows a view of the friendly match between the national football teams of Iran (players in white) and Japan at the Azadi Stadium, western Tehran, Iran, on October 13, 2015. (Photo by Mehr news agency)

 

Iranian and Japanese soccer players could not open the scoring in the remaining minutes of the first half and the match went into the injury time, when the Persians were awarded a penalty after Torabi was brought down in the Samurais’ penalty area.

The Japanese goalkeeper made a save from the penalty kick. The Iranians did not relinquish, and Torabi adroitly placed the ball at the back of the opponents’ net as the referee was to blow his whistle for the break.

After the breather, the match was transformed, with Japan pushing hard in a high-tempo affair. The Japanese footballers sent a long ball at Iran’s goal three minutes into the second half, prompting goalie Alireza Haqiqi to leave the post in the hope of picking up the ball.

Japan’s 23-year-old Yoshinori Muto, though, was quick to react and slipped the ball past Haqiqi to score the equalizer and hold the Persians to a 1-1 draw.

Iranian footballer Ashkan Dejagah (R) is confronted by several Japanese players during a friendly match between the national football teams of Iran (players in white) and Japan at the Azadi Stadium, western Tehran, Iran, on October 13, 2015. (Photo by Mehr news agency)

 

Both Asian giants did not manage to score the winner later on, and settled for shared points.

The national football teams of Iran and Japan have played against each other fifteen times. Iran has emerged victorious in six encounters, Japan has notched up five wins, and four matches have ended up in a draw. 

The last time the two Asian teams took on each other was on August 17, 2005 at the Yokohama International Stadium in a 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifier. Japan won the match 2-1.