‘Match of the century’, Iran’s history man Mahdavikia recalls US clash

Soccer Football – 1998 FIFA World Cup – Group F – Iran v United States of America – Stade Gerland, Lyon – 21/6/98 Mehdi Mahdavikia – Iran celebrates after scoring the second goal against USA Mandatory Credit: Action Images / Darren Walsh

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

HONG KONG, June 22 (Reuters) – More than two decades have passed since Iran’s Mehdi Mahdavikia sealed a 2-1 victory over the United States, but the pleasure of handing his country their first-ever victory in World Cup has not faded.

Tuesday marked the 24th anniversary of the ideologically opposed nations of France 98 meeting in a game widely regarded as the most politically charged in World Cup history.

They will meet again at the World Cup later this year after being drawn in the same group in Qatar, but this encounter is unlikely to be as high-profile as the Lyon clash, which was decided by the goal of breakaway from Mahdavikia.

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

“Iran against the United States was the match of the century,” the 44-year-old former SV Hamburg winger told Reuters.

“That goal was one of the most important, memorable and remarkable moments of my life. I will never, ever forget that moment.

“I was young, it was a very important game in the World Cup, it was Iran against the United States, it was Iran’s first victory in the World Cup and therefore the whole recipe was there to make it a memorable cake for the rest of my life.”

Iranian supporters turned out by the thousands at the Gerland stadium in Lyon for the first international meeting between two nations at odds since the Iranian revolution of 1979.

Security was tight but the prospects of any animosity spilling onto the field quickly dissipated as the Iranians presented the Americans with bouquets of roses and the teams posed for a joint photo.

It was a tightly contested game, however, with Hamid Estili’s header giving the Iranians the lead in the first half and Mahdavikia bringing down the left wing to double with six minutes to go.

Mahdavikia’s strike ultimately proved decisive as Brian McBride’s header three minutes later set up a tense conclusion with the Iranians clinging to a win that sparked wild celebrations at home.

“This victory was an important victory from every angle,” recalled Mahdavikia.

“From a sporting point of view, it was a historic moment because we won the first victory in the history of Iranian football at the World Cup.

“For the country, it became a big party, so it was also historic. And even politically, it became an important moment, so we never forget that one. It was a special day.”

Iran have won just one World Cup game since – against Morocco in Russia in 2018 – and Mahdavikia expects another major test for Team Melli when they meet the Americans in November .

“The United States have young players playing in Europe, so overall I think the American team is much stronger than it was in 1998 and I’m sure it will be much stronger. difficult in Qatar,” he added.

“He could still be affected by the political environment, this game could be under that shadow in a way.

“But I’m sure these players are professional, they’re experienced and they can stay focused on the sport and the game itself no matter what happens in politics.

“I hope it’s a good game and I wish Iran can win again.”

Join now for FREE unlimited access to Reuters.com

Reporting by Michael Church in Hong Kong, editing by Nick Mulvenney and Peter Rutherford

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Leave a Comment