AFP: Midfield star Ali Karimi scored the only goal as Iran defeated the United Arab Emirates 1-0 on Wednesday to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
By Farhad Pouladi
TEHRAN (AFP) — Midfield star Ali Karimi scored the only goal as Iran defeated the United Arab Emirates 1-0 on Wednesday to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
Iran remain in fourth place in Asian qualifying Group B with 10 points from seven matches, one behind North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Table-topping South Korea, with 15 points, have already made sure of their place in the finals in South Africa next year.
The second automatic qualifying spot will be decided next Wednesday when Iran travel to South Korea while the Saudis welcome North Korea to Riyadh.
"With this win we have got closer to the World Cup. I hope that with the knowledge I have of South Korea, we'll be able to celebrate our making it to the finals in Seoul next week," said Iran coach Afshin Qotbi.
"I know many of their players. I have worked with them for many years. But they put on a good show against Saudi Arabia (in a 0-0 draw earlier Wednesday) despite already making it to the World Cup.
"I am optimistic that we will reach the finals either directly or through play offs."
Karimi struck the crucial goal on 52 minutes after drifting past two UAE defenders before unleashing a fierce drive.
"Nothing is impossible," said Karimi after a tense, must-win game for Iran in the 100,000-seater Azadi Stadium which was two-thirds empty. "We can get the desired result in Seoul."
The team who finishes third in the group will have to face the third-placed team in Group A, either Bahrain or Uzbekistan, with the eventual winner then going on to face New Zealand for a spot in the 2010 finals.
Iran have now beaten UAE 10 times in 14 matches with three games drawn.
The Iranians are trying to reach a fourth World Cup having qualified for the 1978, 1998 and 2006 finals.
Iran achieved their only win in the finals in France in 1998 when they beat arch-foe the United States 2-1.