Portugal somehow managed to fend off Iran in order to seal their place in the knockout rounds as both sides finished on level terms after a pulsating encounter.

In what turned out to be one of the most memorable clashes in this edition of the FIFA World Cup, Iran once again showed tremendous determination and fighting spirit to hold back a dangerous Portugal.

After dominating for almost the entirety of the game, Portugal sweated out some nervous moments in the final stages. But, a stunning first half striker from Ricardo Quaresma made sure that the Iberian giants sealed their place in the Round of 16. The Seleccao will now face Group A toppers Uruguay in their Round of 16 encounter, after finishing second in Group B.

Iran, on the other hand, are out of the competition, despite their brave performances against Spain and Portugal. However, the Asian giants can definitely take pride in their highly impressive showing in the 2018 FIFA World Cup, which could potentially be a sign of greater things to come in near future for Iranian football.

Team Melli end their World Cup campaign third in Group B and just a point behind Spain and Portugal. The Hard Tackle now takes a look at three players who shined in the captivating encounter.

Pepe

Fernando Santos has to give thoughts on his ageing defenders after they conceded three goals against Spain. (photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Age is just a number for this veteran defender. (photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The fact that the Iranian attackers found it difficult to break Portugal’s defensive shackles should largely be attributed to Pepe’s great showing at the back. The former Real Madrid man built a formidable partnership with another veteran defender Jose Fonte, which was an integral part of Portugal’s overall solidity.

Even though the European Championship winners did look pretty vulnerable on counter-attacks, Pepe always prevailed in preventing the opposition from getting a clear sight on goal. He also marshalled his side’s defence with some ferocious tackling, which is clearly reflected in his impressive statistics.

The Besiktas defender won nine aerial duels, most by any player on the pitch whilst also making five clearances and two interceptions. Although the 35-year-old didn’t take part in Portugal’s build-up play for obvious reasons, it’s probably safe to say that without this reliable operator in the defensive half, Portugal would have already conceded a few goals against a dangerous Iran attack.

Alireza Beiranvand

Alireza Beiranvand celebrates after Iran won their opening game of Group B. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Alireza Beiranvand once again proved his worth against Portugal (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Every edition, the FIFA World Cup has brought us at least one breakout goalkeeper, who has stunned the world with his impeccable performances for their nation (We all remember Ochoa’s heroics in the 2014 World Cup.). And this year, it seems Alireza Beiranvand has been the one to come out of his shell and showcase his shot-stopping abilities in front of the whole world.

The Portugal game was no exception as the Iranian goalkeeper was once again a key component behind their impressive performance on the defensive front.

Following a jittery start in the first 15 minutes of the game, Beiranvand saved his side’s blushes on more than one occasion as he made a couple of brilliant saves to keep his side in the hunt for a potential place in the knockout rounds. However, he could do nothing about the brilliant finish from Ricardo Quaresma just before half-time.

His three saves in the game did, however, include a brilliant penalty save against Cristiano Ronaldo. Therefore, he definitely deserves applause for his brave performances and despite failing to guide his team into the knockout rounds, Beiranvand’s performance will remain as a highlight of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

Ricardo Quaresma

Quaresma will be the key man for Portugal. (Photo courtesy - Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Quaresma’s strike will go down as one of the best in the tournament so far. (Photo courtesy – Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

Although a rather surprising inclusion considering the fact that Ricardo Quaresma wasn’t all that effective in the final third before being subbed off in the second half, he definitely deserves credit for his sublime finish for the opener.

Quaresma’s goal, which is somewhat similar to Denis Cheryshev’s strike against Saudi Arabia in the very first match, is definitely one of the best goals of this tournament so far.

Aside from his spectacular goal, however, Quaresma was one of the few players who played well for Portugal in the first half. The 34-year-old looked very fresh in the final third and showed good understanding with the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Andre Silva and Raphael Guerreiro.

That being said, Quaresma was much less active in the second half and was rightly subbed off in the 70th minute as he made way for Bernardo Silva.

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