Alireza Beiranvand ran away from home to pursue a career in football. Born to a nomadic family, Beiranvand had little money and slept outside the club’s main gate before he started working at a car wash.

He pursued other odd jobs at a pizzeria, dress-making shop before finally landing the number one keeper’s spot at his club. On Monday, Beiranvand made the biggest save of his life.

Cristiano Ronaldo, who was in red-hot form with four goals in his two prior games, saw a penalty offered to Portugal as he was tripped in the box. The Portuguese superstar stepped up, drove his penalty low and hard to the right, but Beiranvand was equal to it. The Iranian goalkeeper saved it. Dreams do come true.

Beiranvand led from the back, as Iran almost, ALMOST, pulled off, one of the World Cup’s greatest upsets as they ran Portugal close, netting a stoppage time equaliser. They could have had a winner too, but for the breadth of the post.

Portugal looked bereft of ideas on an evening where they needed a point to guarantee qualification as their central goal threat, the captain, was shielded and man-marked by one, two Iran defenders at times.

Two years to the day that he struck a winner to send Portugal through to the quarters of Euro 2016, a tournament they’d end up winning, Ricardo Quaresma returned to the starting line-up. For the first time in a 17-year journeyman career, the winger would line up for a World Cup match.

Capped at all levels by Portugal and a Under-17 European championships winner in 2000, Quaresma started out at roughly the same time as Cristiano Ronaldo and was considered the superior talent among the two.

While Ronaldo worked his way up to the top, Quaresma was given several opportunities but failed to grasp them all. The opportunities were all offered by top European clubs and his CV is certainly an object of envy; Barcelona, Chelsea, Inter Milan and Porto to name a few.

With Portugal struggling, Quaresma stepped up. The Besiktas winger cut in from the right, shot with the outside of his right foot, a move now known as the ‘Trivela’, and beat Beiranvand, the only time on this night that the keeper would be beaten. This was also coincidentally, Portugal’s first non-Ronaldo goal of this World Cup.

Former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz had set up a tactical Iran team and they could have qualified from a group containing two European heavyweights. Team Melli ran Spain close and it was only a fortuitous goal from Diego Costa that saw them lose to the 2010 champions.

One of the reasons that this World Cup has seen many close battles has been the rise of Asian teams. Four years ago in Brazil, Asian teams managed a cumulative total of three points among themselves and Iran managed a solitary point. This time around, Asian teams already have 12 points with three of them yet to play their final group-stage games.

Iran have four points this time around, and just as they kept Lionel Messi quiet for 90 minutes four years ago, Ronaldo was nullified. Messi broke Iranian hearts by scoring at the death, here it was them giving Portugal jitterbugs.

Queiroz was the coach in Brazil as well and Iran have come a long way as an unit in that time. The lack of a potent goal-scorer was a minor chink in what was a commendable group-stage campaign.

Both Morocco and Iran were barely scored against and Portugal will not relish going up against Uruguay in the Round of 16. Much has been written about Ronaldo’s penalty but it is the Real Madrid superstar’s supporting cast that deserves the scrutiny.

Santos started without Bernardo Silva as Goncalo Guedes was finally hooked for Andre Silva. The AC Milan forward, having endured a difficult season at club level, could not step up on the night as he cut a frustrated figure.

Uruguay are yet to let in a goal of their own in three matches, while Portugal have let in four and it could have been more. Boasting one of the best defensive lines in the tournament, Uruguay might have an easy time should the rest of the attack sans Ronaldo continue in the same vein.

Two years ago, at Euro 2016, Portugal won only one of their matches in regulation time. They might just need to show the same scrappiness to go through the next round(s) and script a second unlikely triumph.