Iran go home after 3-1 loss to Bosnia
BOSNIA & HERZEGOVINA 3
(Edin Dzeko 23, Miralem Pjanic, 59, Avdija Vrsajevic 83)
(Reza Ghoochannejhad 82)
They won the hearts of many when they resiliently held mighty Argentina to a goalless draw for 91 minutes - before Lionel Messi struck a late winner.
Iran earned their fair share of critics as well for displaying a brand of negative football not often seen in this goal-ridden World Cup.
Love them or hate them, Iran proved one thing during their 3-1 defeat by Bosnia-Herzegovina in Salvador this morning (Singapore time).
While Carlos Queiroz's men are adept at parking the bus, they simply have no wheels going forward.
Before the match, Salvador's Arena Fonte Nova had seen 17 goals in three games after Holland's 5-1 romp over Spain, Germany's 4-0 hammering of Portugal and France's 5-2 rout of Switzerland.
Then Iran arrived to buck that trend.
The Asian giants had a plan: Employ the same defensive style that proved sturdy so far in Brazil, soak up the pressure from their more technically gifted opponents and use their pace on the counter-attack to try and score.
But, like Mike Tyson once said so eloquently, "everybody's got a plan until they get hit".
Bosnia, who earlier crashed out of the tournament controversially after having a legitimate goal ruled offside in their 1-0 loss to Nigeria, hit Iran early.
Manchester City striker Edin Dzeko must have taken notes from Lionel Messi on how to score against an obdurate Iran - strike from range.
In the 23rd minute, the 28-year-old picked up the ball in midfield and drilled it into the bottom corner, just beyond the reach of Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Haghighi.
Needing a win to qualify for the second round - coupled by a Nigerian defeat by Argentina in the group's other game - Iran had to switch to Plan B: Attack. Only, they simply didn't have the tools for it.
Their creative forces, Masoud Shojaei and Ashkan Dejagah, who play for Spain's Las Palmas and England's Fulham respectively, struggled to penetrate or carve any chances for isolated striker Reza Ghoochannejhad.
While the Iranians shifted focus from defence to attack, Bosnia scored again.
In the 59th minute, Roma's Miralem Pjanic slotted home after a delightful team move.
Ghoochannejhad did manage to score Iran's only goal in the tournament, tapping home a cross from the left flank in the 82nd minute to instil some hope.
But the flamboyant Bosnians restored their two-goal cushion a minute later through right back Avdija Vrsajevic.
In the end, as everyone realised Iran were a one-dimensional, defence-only team, fans must have begun to wonder what an attack-minded Bosnia could have offered the 2014 World Cup had they not been robbed earlier.