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IR Iran vs Spain
2018 FIFA World Cup Group B
|Kazan Arena, Kazan Russia|
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Spain secured three points in Kazan in predictable style, although the scoreline tonight underlines Iran’s impressive defensive effort.
A solitary goal to Diego Costa in the 55th minute opened up the game, and it proved to be the only score in a game that had one goal disallowed (for Iran) and several others cleared or saved on the line.
Iran were expected to sit deep and contain Spain’s final ball, and they didn’t disappoint. Their 6-3-1 formation in the low block was always going to be tricky for Spain to break down, and in the first half Spain were reasonably well nullified.
Isco and Silva were tireless on the ball, controlling and working possession like fine artisans while teaming with Andreas Iniesta – one of the progenitors of tiki-taka – to penetrate down Iran’s left. But despite the weight of possession (81 per cent at the half) Spain could not find a way past the Fort Knox of the Iranian defence.
The second half started on-trend, but Diego Costa’s goal – which won’t make any highlight reels as it bounced from Costa to defender to Costa’s knee which then ricocheted past Iranian keeper Beiranvand – broke the game wide open.
From that point Iran moved the bus out of the driveway and tried to play against Spain. They opened up the park, traded space behind the back four for attacking options and took the Spanish on.
They made two excellent chances, one that lead to the disallowed goal for offside, and the other a point blank header that soared over the bar from Medhi Taremi. With a bit more luck Iran could have clawed a result from this game, despite finishing with only 22 per cent and offering seven shots (none on target) to Spain’s 18 (5 on target).
In a must win game, Spain, are up against unlikely Game 1 winner and Group B leader Iran in Kazan. Join The Roar for live scores and a blog of the match from 4am (AEST).
This is a must win game for Spain, who have been the backroom story of the tournament so far. Their three-all draw with Portugal in the opener was an early nomination for game of the tournament; a soaring affair that saw Spain dominate possession (62 per cent) but go behind twice before conceding the win in the 88th minute.
It was Cristiano Ronaldo’s night, and his individual moments of brilliance extorted 3 points from the superior Spain team.
All eyes were on Spain to spot a wrinkle in the team’s unity and resolve after the sensational sacking of manager Julen Lopategui.
Spain’s patient possession-based build up play was at its fluid best under acting manager Fernando Hierro, but the final ball was often frustrated by the stoic Portugese defence.
Spain’s 12 shots (5 on target) to underlines how they hoard possession, but the efficiency was stifled by Portugal who, like Iran, fixate on defensive structure first before quick transitions into attack.
Iran, on the other hand, were flag-bearers again for the Asian game by weathering a dour match to defeat Morocco with a last minute (own goal) winner. Like Portugal, they permitted Morocco to own the ball (with only 37 per cent possession) and similarly gave up 13 shots to the North Africans with only 3 on target.
Their star man AZ Alkmaar’s Alireza Jahanbakhsh (the Dutch Eredivisie’s top scorer) was solid and effective while lacking the dark magic of a Ronaldo to lift his team off his own boot. Luckily for Team Melli, Aziz Bouhaddouz’s head did that for them.
The stakes will be high for this. Iran are unlikely leaders in Group B and now have a real (albeit improbable) chance of upsetting either Spain or Portugal to get out of the group. A point here controls their destiny in game 3 and heaps enormous pressure on the Spaniards.
Given Iran’s defensive mandate and tactical similarity to Portugal (they are managed by former Portugal manager Carlos Queiroz), they will hope to absorb as much of Spain’s incisive through-balls as possible and frustrate them into leaving space behind the midfield.
Their young, quick and talented attackers Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun will want to run and test Pique and Sergio Ramos.
Spain will see this game as an opportunity to announce their arrival in the tournament. Iran may sit back, but Isco and Silva’s inventiveness between the lines and Diego Costa’s brute force look enough to get the job done.
The Spanish midfield as a unit are the masters of misdirection and they should be able to break down Iran in ways the lone-wolf Argentinians struggled to do 4 years ago in Brazil.
The World Cup can throw up some unpredictable upsets, and this World Cup has been no different. But as much as Asian football fans might want to see Iran soak up Spain and get something out of this game, Spain have too many weapons for an Iran win (or draw) to be anything more than a Hail Mary.
Expect Spain to come out on top after a couple after extensive chains of possession.