TEHRAN (Reuters) - The elimination of England, France and the United States in the early stages of the World Cup was a just reward for their ill-treatment of Iran, its foreign minister said on Tuesday.
Iran did not qualify for the tournament in South Africa but fans have been glued to their televisions nonetheless in a country where soccer is the number one sport.
While the United States -- often referred to by Iran’s leaders as “the great Satan” -- were never a favorite at the tournament, the elimination of England and France before the quarter-finals was a crushing blow to their fans back home.
England and the U.S. both lost in second round matches while France and world champions Italy fell in the opening group stage.
Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki said they had all got what they deserved after they backed a new round of sanctions against Iran over its nuclear program which the West fears may be aimed at making a bomb, something Tehran denies.
“Whatever we witness today in the international political arena has been identically manifested in the 19th tournament of the World Cup,” Mottaki was quoted as saying by Iran’s official news agency IRNA.
“Those countries which played a key role in imposing new sanctions against Iran -- like England, America and France -- were all eliminated in the preliminary phases,” he said.
Brazil, which voted against the sanctions, is one of the favorites to win having impressively reached the last eight with a crushing 3-0 victory over Chile on Monday.
Iran played at the last World Cup finals in Germany four years ago but finished bottom of their qualifying group.
In 1998, they famously beat the United States 2-1 although neither side went through to the next round.
Reporting by Hossein Jaseb and Ramin Mostafavi; Writing by Robin Pomeroy; editing by Jon Bramley in Johannesburg