Thursday, 20 September, 2018

Morocco faces off with Iran

Morocco vs Iran LIVE: World Cup updates from Group B tie in St Petersburg | Daily Star Morocco vs. Iran final score: 95th-minute own goal gives Iran its second win ever at World Cup
Jennie Wade | 17 June, 2018, 21:10

Iran conceded fewer goals than any other side in AFC qualifying and Morocco didn't let in a single goal during their final qualifying group, so both of them know what it takes to shut up shop.

And with reigning European champions Portugal and 2010 World Cup winners Spain also in the group, officials from both Iran and Morocco had called this game "their World Cup final".

"We were crucified", Morocco coach Herve Renard said.

But that gave Ehsan Haji Safi the opportunity to whip in the free-kick, and Bouhaddouz could only steer the ball into his own net for an unlikely Iran victory.

Portuguese Queiroz takes Iran to Kazan to face Spain next time out and admits a different approach is required.

For Moroccans, he will be remembered for his unfortunate World Cup stance.

Perhaps exhausted from the first period or, more likely, reminded of their defensive duties during the interval, both teams were more cagey after the restart. But Hakim Ziyach, Ayoub El Kaabi and Mehdi Benatia all failed to capitalise.

Morocco in particular have been in excellent form, winning four and drawing one of the five games they've played since reaching the tournament. Renard has relied on his ultra-defensive tactics all throughout the qualifying campaign and is likely to stick with it against Iran.

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However, Iran nearly got the breakthrough with two minutes remaining of the first stanza but Morocco goalkeeper Munir was alert to keep the score goalless going into the halftime break.

Striker Sardar Azmoun broke clear though the middle but he shot straight at Mohamedi who got up quickly to keep out a follow-up effort from Alireza Jahanbakhsh.

Iran striker Sardar Azmoun, who plays in Russian Federation for Rubin Kazan, has scored 23 times in 33 worldwide appearances.

"When the draw comes, we had two options: we change our goal because the group is so hard, or we keep the same hope and to play and fight for a chance to win the second round". A smooth talker? His team certainly looked the smoother of the two in the first half, despite being "the great under-achievers in African football" according to Matterface.

Iran kept only their second World Cup clean sheet - their other came in a goalless draw with Nigeria in June 2014.

And, ahead of the opener, the Frenchman sent a defiant message to those who consider the north African team - making their first World Cup finals appearance since 1998 - amongst the also-rans.

82% of the total shots in this match (18 of 22) came in the first half.

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