World Cup 2018: 3 key battles that decided the Morocco versus Iran game

2018 FIFA World Cup: 1st Stage Group B match Morocco 0 - 1 Iran
It might not have been the prettiest of wins, but a win is still a win

Morocco has had to endure an awful couple of days. After losing a World Cup hosting bid to the United states, they crumbled to a loss after a 93rd minute own goal, that too from a player who was subbed in just 10 minutes prior. Talk about rough.

It was a highly defensive display from both the sides, and just when it looked like it was heading to a much deserved 0-0 draw, disaster stuck.

The game saw a total of 36 fouls, and the high intensity play made a lot of the players suffer cramps as well. This is also Iran's first World Cup victory since 1998.

As always, there were a few individual battles that went a long way in deciding the outcome of the game. Here's a look at 3 of them.

#1 Hakim Ziyech vs Rouzbeh Cheshmi

Ziyech and Cheshmi came face to face often, and the Iranian had the last laugh

Ziyech was talked up as the player with the most creativity in the Moroccan team, and it turned out to be the truth. As soon as Ziyech got hold of the ball, the Moroccan players spread themselves all over the pitch in anticipation of a long ball, and Ziyech delivered more often than not.

The downside to his game was that he was not as involved in the second half as he was in the first, thereby letting Iran back into the game.

Despite that, he had the chance to put Morocco ahead in the 80th minute, but his shot was saved brilliantly by a diving Munir in goal.

Cheshmi was responsible for Morocco not running away with the game early in the first half, as he stepped up to slow down the pace of the game and stop the balls from Ziyech finding their intended targets.

His presence in the air was vital, as most of the crosses were dangerous and could have turned the tide of the game had they worked out.

Ziyech vs Cheshmi - stats
Ziyech vs Cheshmi - stats

#2 Medhi Benatia vs Sardar Azmoun

The skipper was solid in the air and kept everything out, right until that own goal

Iran tried a total of 8 crosses during the match, out of which 5 were intercepted by Morocco's captain Benatia. He alongside Romain Saiss, was an absolute rock at the back and never allowed the Iranians to get a foothold in the game.

Sardar Azmoun, Iran's chief wrecker in-charge was not to be left behind. Azmoun won a massive 12 offensive aerials, and was responsible for Iran coming back into the game after Morocco threatened to run away with the game in the first 25 or 30 minutes.

It goes to show just how defensive the game was, as the two sides cleared the ball at the first sign of trouble and clear chances were hard to come by.

Azmoun had a chance to put Iran ahead in the first half, but his one on one was saved by the Moroccan keeper, Munir. Benatia too had a chance to score, but it just wasn't Morocco's day.

Benatia vs Azmoun - stats
Benatia vs Azmoun - stats

#3 Nordin Amrabat vs Karim Ansarifard

Morocco v Iran: Group B - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia
Amrabat was pivotal for Morocco till his injury

Nordin Amrabat was the best player on the pitch until the 75th minute, when he suffered a foul and got a concussion that ensured he had to be taken off the game to prevent further damage.

Operating from the right as a full-back, he was the essential part of every Moroccan attack and was just behind Ziyech at all times to help out. Once he was taken out, there was a huge space on the right, and it is no coincidence that the resulting free-kick came where he would have been .

To his credit, Ansarifard was just as good, as the two had repeated showdowns in the middle of the pitch.

Ansarifard was also great in the air as he won a 3 aerial duels for his team. While his defensive duties were not as pronounced, he was more than a handful when attacking.

Amrabat vs Ansarifard - stats
Amrabat vs Ansarifard - stats

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Edited by Anthony Akatugba Jr.
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