Morocco vs Iran: It’s one of those games where the loser is almost certainly out of the World Cup. Morocco vs Iran Group B fixture is all set to get underway at the Saint Petersburg Stadium. Morocco, ranked 48 were drawn from pot 4, while the highest ranked Asian nation Iran, 34, were drawn from pot 3. Both teams have minimal chances of making it through to the round of 16 thanks to the other two European giants in their group, Portugal & Spain. While it is infinitely optimistic to envisage a slip from either Spain or Portugal, the optimism can be deemed negated by the quality of football these two teams have produced in the qualifiers. Morocco have qualified for the World Cup after a 20-year interim, whilst Iran have registered successive entries for the first time.
JOURNEY TO THE FIFA WORLD CUP 2018
Morocco had to overhaul the likes of Ivory Coast & Gabon and against all odds, the Lions of the Atlas made it through comfortably. Out of the 6 qualifiers, Morocco won 3 and drew 3. Their defence playing a massive role in this successful run. Morocco in the third round of qualifiers didn’t concede a single goal.
Iran are by far the best Asian squad and had a rather easy run. They cleared the qualifiers without losing a game but as fate would decide, they’re up against Portugal & Spain in Group B. Iran have never made it to the knockouts of the World Cup. They’ve won only one game out of the 12 played in 4 World Cups.
For Iran, the fitness concerns with Mehdi Taremi & Askhan Dejagah will prove critical. Also, they’ll miss the attacking services of Saeid Ezatolahi.
Nabil Dirar missed the last two international friendlies against Slovakia & Estonia. Morocco will be hoping for the left winger to clear his fitness test before kick-off.
EXPECTED PLAYING XI
Goalkeeper: Munir Mohamedi
Defenders: Nordin Amrabat, Mehdi Benatia, Romain Saiss, Achraf Hakimi
Midfielders: Moubarak Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi, Hakim Ziyech, Younes Belhanda, Amine Harit
Strikers: Ayoub El Kaabi
Goalkeeper: Ali Beiranvand
Defenders: Milad Mohammadi, Morteza Pouraliganji, Roozbeh Cheshmi, Ramin Rezaeian
Midfielders: Masoud Shojaei, Ehsan Haji Safi, Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi, Karim Ansarifard
Strikers: Sardar Azmoun
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This will be Hervé Renard’s first World Cup as manager. The Morocco boss is the only manager to win the African Cup of Nations with two different teams. Zambia & Ivory Coast.
Iran were unbeaten in their qualifying campaign for the 2018 World Cup. They won 12 games and drew the other six. They also kept 14 clean sheets in those 18 games.
This will be first time Morocco and Iran will meet at the World Cup. In fact, they’ve faced each other only once previously, a game which ended in a draw.
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