TEHRAN - Iranian media on Sunday lamented the "injustice" of Serbian referee Milorad Mazic's decision to turn down a penalty appeal against heavyweights Argentina in their World Cup encounter.
The penalty, if awarded, could have been a turning point in the match in which Iran put up an effective defence only to be defeated by a stunning injury-time strike from Lionel Messi.
"Argentina + the referee 1, Iran 0," read the headline by Jam-e-Jam newspaper, next to a photo of Iranian forward Ashkan Dejagah going down in the box in a tackle by Argentine defender Pablo Zabaleta.
"Argentina won because of the referee," the Quds paper said, with the government-run Iran daily lamenting that "Iranian stars (became) victims of injustice." President Hassan Rouhani praised the players' performance in a Tweet: "Well played to our Persian Cheetahs! It might not be the result you deserved but great effort and heads held high!" Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif also hailed the display, saying he was "extremely proud" of the team.
After the final whistle on Saturday, thousands of passionate Iran fans in Tehran took to the streets, honking horns, dancing and waving the national flag in a show of appreciation for what the 7 Sobh daily called "the most beautiful display of Iran's footballing history."