Tehran, Iran (AP) — Iran became the second team to qualify for the 2018 World Cup by beating Uzbekistan 2-0 late Monday, sparking celebrations in the streets.
It is the first time Iran have qualified for consecutive World Cups, and will be their fifth appearance at soccer’s marquee tournament.
Sardar Azmoun scored in the 23rd minute and Mehdi Taremi in the 88th at Azadi Stadium in Tehran.
Iran, managed by former Real Madrid and Portugal coach Carlos Queiroz since 2011, top Group A of Asian qualifying. The team are unbeaten from eight games and eight points clear of third-placed Uzbekistan with two qualifiers remaining, so cannot be denied a top-two finish and an automatic spot in Russia next year.
South Korea are in second place, a point ahead of Uzbekistan with a game in hand.
Iran have yet to concede a goal in qualifying in a run which has renewed the confidence with fans.
Vice-president Eshaq Jahangiri was present at the stadium for the game, among the almost 60,0000 supporters celebrating when the referee blew full-time.
The Iranian players celebrated with the national flag, broadcast live on TV with a rousing soundtrack. Men, woman and children spilled into the streets with flags and chants and motorists honked their horns.
In the main streets and squares Tehrani residents gathered and chanted “Queiroz, we love you,” and “Queiroz, thank you.”
Ashkan Kasraeian drove with his wife and friends to be part of the celebrations.
“I came out to join this national celebration,” he said. “I am proud of my national football team and I love Carlos Queiroz.”
He said he hopes Iran will retain Queiroz as head coach even after the World Cup.
Brazil were the first team to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Russia.