Morocco 0-1 Iran World Cup Group B: match report
A late, late own goal off the head of Aziz Bouhaddouz was enough to see Iran beat Morocco in the opening game in World Cup Group B in Saint Petersburg.
Morocco 0-1 Iran: match report
A stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.
Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.
The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament but they now have a chance in a group where they must now face favourites Spain and Portugal.
Morocco, who enjoyed more possession throughout, began in aggressive fashion, taking the game to their opponents and overloading their right flank as they targeted Hajsafi.
That approach almost paid off when Nordin Amrabat whipped in a dangerous cross from the right but Younes Belhanda’s header from an acute angle flashed wide.
Iran were missing the calming influence of suspended holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi as Morocco over-ran them in the centre of the park with the clever Mbark Boussoufa directing play as the African side frequently attacked in numbers.
Morocco almost turned that initial pressure into a goal in the 19th minute when following a scramble in the area, Medhi Benatia’s shot was well saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Quieroz had clearly given his side instructions to defend deep and look to break on the counter-attack and two minutes before the break that approach almost bore fruit.
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.
Chances were at a premium after the break but a well-struck effort from Morocco's Hakim Ziyech brought out a fine save from Beiranvand nine minutes from the end.
Morocco vs Iran live stream online: as it happened
Morocco vs Iran live stream online: preview
For the first time in the history of the World Cup, Morocco will play Iran as Group B starts on the second day of the World Cup from Russia. the two heavy underdogs in the group, which also has Spain and Portugal in it, both sides will need a win today to give themselves a flicker of hope of progressing beyond the group stage. The game kicks off from Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg at 17:00 CEST.
Morocco are seen as one of the potential surprise packages in Russia this summer and they have plenty of attacking talent to live up to the tag. They have the Bundesliga Rookie of the Year with Schalke 04's Amine Harit and Hakim Ziyech has also turned heads with Ajax this season. Nordin Amrabat was impressive recently in a win against Slovakia, however, and we will keep him as our player to watch against Iran.
Managed by Carlos Quieroz, the former Manchester United assistant to Alex Ferguson, Iran are a counter-attacking side. They have appeared in the World Cup five times without ever getting out of the group stages. Quieroz will walk away after the World Cup and his charges would surely like to send him off by making history. In Group B, however, the odds are most certainly stacked against them.