'Brazil here we come,' Iran fans sing
Millions of joyous Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran on Tuesday after the Iranian national team beat Asia powerhouse Korea Republic 1-0 in Ulsan to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
"Brazil here we come," sang the fans in football-mad Iran. Footage aired on state television showed similar outpourings of joy around the country. In Tehran, residents waved the green-white-red national flag while motorists honked their horns and bikers sped through the capital to join the festivities.
Some motorists were parked on the roadside with their radios turned up at full volume as passersby danced and cheered while policemen looked on.
The win on Tuesday put Iran top of Asian qualifying Group A with 16 points followed by Korea Republic with 14 points. Both teams qualified for the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil. It is the fourth time that Iran has clinched a berth at football's high feast.
The qualification was hailed by top officials. Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei thanked the team for bringing "happiness" to the people of Iran, state media reported. "The national football team's victory made the people and especially sports fans happy. I thank those who created this happiness," Khamenei said.
Newly-elected President Hassan Rowhani was equally enthusiastic: "I am certain this victory is the prelude for major victories and the decisive presence of Islamic Iran in all fields," Rowhani said in remarks carried by the ISNA news agency.
On Vali Asr Street in Tehran, young men jumped up and down to express their joy. "It was a big surprise. I could not have imagined that we could beat Korea in front of their supporters at home," said Mehran, 29.
The sport ministry said it plans to hold a ceremony at Tehran's Azadi stadium on Wednesday to mark Iran reaching the finals. Iran made their FIFA World Cup final debut in Argentina in 1978, but failed to progress beyond the group stage.
Twenty years later they qualified for the finals in France, where they scored a memorable victory against USA. Iran also made it to the Germany 2006 but again failed to make it beyond the group stage.