Group B opens with a lesser clash between the two sides who are not seen as favourites of the lot. Morocco are returning to the FIFA World Cup after 20 years of absence and we can feel the joy and ambition surrounding the team in Russia.
The Atlas Lions are hoping to progress from the group stage despite the presence of Portugal and Spain, who are one of the favourites of the tournament.
However, the North Africans need to surmount Iran before confirming their status in the group.
Currently ranked 37 by FIFA, Team Melli could stand up to the challenge due to their discipline. Head coach Carlos Queiroz has been able to instil focus and orderliness in the team since taking over the outfit in 2011.
His team have been together for seven years now which is enough time to form a solid unit that cannot be cheaply dismantled.
Queiroz could also count on his experience in African football, having managed Bafana Bafana of South Africa between 2000 and 2002. Would that be enough?
Morocco coach Herve Renard, who came on board in February 2016, was able to pull the North African team out of lethargy within a short period of time, qualifying them to the 2018 World Cup when few people expected it. It wasn’t his main objective though. The 2017 Africa Cup of Nations was what he had been tacked to qualify for and win or perform honourably.
Now, they are at the FIFA World Cup with the belief of proving a statement, to make not only Morocco proud but Africa as a whole.
Unlike Iran, the Atlas Lions are more technical, with a dense midfield from where all the constructions spread tentacles but their defence has shown grave weakness of late, mostly during the Mundial preparations.
Iran appear to be better in aerial balls and that could be tough for Morocco’s back half, but the game could be decided by pace and intensity which the Lions possess more.
Being it the best option to claim all three points ahead of Portugal and Spain, expect to see a physical cracker that could leave the winner with hangovers into the next game.
Morocco vs. Iran match will kick off at 15H00 GMT on Friday, June 15.
At the Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg.
WHAT THEY SAID
Morocco coach Herve Renard
“There a lot of good teams in front of us. We are not here to take pictures in Saint Petersburg.”
Morocco captain Mehdi Benatia
“We want to do big things here, and to show we’re a good team. We respect the Iranian team.”
Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz
“We know that the match is a must win for both sides but we are here for a mission and will compete to win the game and collect the three points. Our players are full of enthusiasm and energy for the match. In football, a win is like medicine and we know that if we can win our opening match, we will be more motivated and more energetic for our next matches. So we will attack bravely tomorrow in order to score.”
Iran midfielder Masoud Shojaei
“We can’t wait for our first match to come. I want to promise all Iranians that we will compete with all our energy and commitment.”
Morocco would be masters of the midfield for a better period of the meeting. If they could prevent Iran’s wingers from running away with the ball, and then make use of balls floating out of the middle of the park to the forefront, they could walk away taller on Friday.