World Cup 2018, Iran vs Spain: Preview & Prediction
Somehow, Someway, Iran managed to come away with the three points against Morocco. Having not registered a single shot on target in the second half, Iran got the crucial win over their African opponents' thanks to a 95th-minute own goal by Aziz Bouhaddouz. The result means that the Asian side goes into the second round of group games with a very real possibility of qualifying for the knockout stage.
Spain came into their opener against Portugal on the background of a lot of commotion with Lopetegui’s impromptu departure. His replacement, Fernando Hierro had the non-enviable task of setting things in order with very little time. While they couldn’t thwart the brilliance that is Cristiano Ronaldo, La Roja for much of the game looked good, especially in possession. Wednesday gives La Roja an opportunity to effectively cement their place for the knockouts and end Iran’s hopes in the process.
Group B – WC 2018
Kick-Off: 11.30 IST
Venue: Kazan Arena, Tatarstan
Referee: Andres Cunha
The win against Morocco in their opener was the Iranian’s first WC win since France 1998 when they triumphed over the US 2-1. Heading into the tournament, the Iranian hopes were resting on Sardar Azmoun who’s fondly known as the “Iranian Messi”. The 23-year-old who plays for Rubin Kazan will be looking to make an impact in front of his home crowd. Morteza Pouraliganji, who plays for the Qatari club Al Sadd, was impressive in Iran’s defensive display against Morocco. The 26-year-old will once again have to be on top of his game if they are to keep out Spain’s attacking talent.
Alireza Beiranvand, the Iranian keeper is another player to keep an eye out for. It was he that denied Hakim Ziyech late on in their tie versus Morocco with a world-class save. Carlos Queiroz was not expected to make any changes to the team that featured against Morocco, but now has some late decisions to make after defender Rouzbeh Cheshmi picked up an injury during training and has been ruled out for the rest of the tournament.
Their 3-3 draw versus Portugal meant that the former World Champions have failed to win the opener for three consecutive World Cups now. In 2014, their 5-1 loss against the Netherlands was followed by a 2-0 loss against Chile and resulted in their tournament coming to an end. In 2010 though, their 1-0 loss against Switzerland was followed by a 2-0 win over Honduras and in the end, they went onto win the whole competition.
La Roja looked nervy and all over the place during the 1st half against Portugal, Nacho and Busquets were not at their best and De Gea of all people made amateurish mistakes in goal. In the 2nd half though, Spain found their groove and played some brilliant football in accordance with their reputation. De Gea has been at the receiving end of a lot of stick from the supporters but it seems interim coach, Hierro will stick with him against Iran. The key man for Spain will be Diego Costa; the striker was at his best against Portugal and scored a brace with his only two shots on goal.
The good news for Spain heading into the game is that Dani Carvajal is available again after recovering from a hamstring injury and will most likely replace Nacho in the playing 11.
Wednesday will mark the first-ever encounter between Spain and Iran. Team Melli are yet to win against European opposition at the World Cup with 5 losses and a draw to show for their efforts. Spain are yet to lose a game in normal time against Asian opposition having won 2 and drawn 2 of their 4 games.
Where They Are in the Table
1st – Iran – 1 game – 3points – (+1 GD)
3rd – Spain – 1 game – 1 point – (0 GD)
3-0 Spain – On paper La Roja are just too much for Iran.