Today, Morocco and Iran will lock horns in the awe-inspiring Saint Petersburg Stadium. Two decades back, the Atlas Lions took part at France 1998, and under the tutelage of Herve Renard they are desperate to make the most of this opportunity.
For the 1st time, Iran enters having reached successive World Cups. With Carlos Queiroz set to end his seven years at the helm post-tournament, his charges will be equally motivated. The Asian side will be without the suspended Saeid Ezatolahi, and Iran will also be sweating on Mehdi Taremi’s and Askhan Dejagah’s injuries. Morocco, meanwhile, will be hoping Nabil Dirar is passed fit.
The 5-time participant, Iran will play at a World Cup, but escaping the group stage remains an unfulfilled dream for their fans. Being drawn in Group B has made this goal more challenging. With Spain and Portugal to come, this meeting with Morocco is a real cup final.
After 20 years of waiting, Morocco will finally make it to the global stage today. But considering the opponents that lie in wait, it is no time to get lost in the occasion. It’s out of the question to let three points escape them. As the only team to have qualified without conceding a goal, their strong defence and collective play will be key.
Currently, Morocco are a run of 18 games unbeaten, including games against fellow World Cup hopefuls Serbia, Nigeria, Korea Republic and Egypt. Only Belgium (19) and Spain (20) have a better record going into Russia 2018.
Iran: Ali Beiranvand; Milad Mohammadi, Morteza Pouraliganji, Roozbeh Cheshmi, Pejman Montazeri; Masoud Shojaei, Ehsan Haji Safi, Omid Ebrahimi; Vahid Amiri, Sardar Azmoun, Alireza Jahanbakhsh
Morocco: Monir El Kajoui; Hamza Mendyl, Romain Saiss, Mehdi Benatia, Achraf Hakimi; Hakim Ziyech, Mbark Boussoufa, Younes Belhanda, Karim El Ahmadi, Noureddine Amrabat; Khalid Boutaib
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