Iran, England’s first World Cup group stage opponents, showed that Gareth Southgate’s players face a stiff challenge 58 days from now, as they beat a strong Uruguay side.
Centre forward Mehdi Taremi, a consistent threat for several years at Porto, scored the winner after a slick passing moving which typified the Iranian technical skill.
Brentford’s Saman Ghoddos, who has had no Premier League game time this season, also stood out.
He had flicked a ball over Martin Cáceres to race away down the right and executed a deft return pass from which left-sided forward Mehdi Torabi should have scored before initiating the move which brought the goal.
Sadegh Moharramim, the right back who excelled for Dinamo Zagreb in locking down English internationals Raheem Sterling during the 1-0 Champions League win over Chelsea last month, linked well with Feyenoord’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh down the right. This was the flank where Iran posed a threat.
Returning manager Carlos Quieiroz also seems to have restored the defensive capability which has made the Iranians hard to bear at World Cups.
Hossein Kanaani was a big influence, combining with Moharramim to snuff out a Darwin Nunez chance and going nose-to-nose with Suarez after one dispute.
Uruguay should have scored. Suarez, back playing club football in Uruguay with Nacional, does not bring the old physical threat but he carved out a chance which he put narrowly wide and blasted another over the bar. An early Nunez 20-yard effort was tipped over in a game played behind closed doors at the Iranian FA’s request.
With the USA’s performing terribly in a 2-0 defeat to Japan in Dusseldorf yesterday, Iran ended the evening with renewed self-belief that they can qualify from England and Wales’ group. That is certainly the expectation back at home.