Iran vs Spain Preview: Can Hierro's side pick up their first win of the World Cup?

Iran vs Spain Preview: Can Hierro's side pick up their first win of the World Cup?

Iran take on Spain at the Kazan Arena in the 2018 World Cup on Wednesday evening.

Sam Straw

Iran take on Spain in the second round of the 2018 World Cup group stage in Group B at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday night. 

Not many people would have expected Iran to be top of Group B following the first round of fixtures, but this is what has turned out to be the case. Iran's late 1-0 victory against Morocco and Spain's scintillating 3-3 draw with Portugal means that Iran are currently two points clear at the top of the group. 

Need to get the three points 

Spain may not have been able to get the win last Friday night against Portugal, but they did produce a good performance considering the circumstances they found themselves in. Spain sacked their head coach Julen Lopetegui just two days before the match due to links with La Liga side Real Madrid which meant Fernando Hierro took charge of the match and will continue in the role throughout the tournament.  

Spain were only denied victory by Cristiano Ronaldo, who produced another impeccable performance by scoring a hat-trick and was just generally unplayable throughout the match. A lot of analysis pre-match was done on Diego Costa, and Hierro would have been left pleased with the 29-year-old's performance as he scored two goals and looked a threat.

It looked as though Nacho Fernández's sublime strike midway through the second half was going to be enough to claim Spain the victory, but Ronaldo popped up with a trademark free-kick in the latter stages to secure his side a point. However, if Spain can reproduce this performance in their final two games, it should be enough for them to qualify to the knock-out stages of the competition. 

It is likely that Hierro will name an unchanged starting line-up for this match. Due to Costa's performance against Portugal, it looks as though Iago Aspas will have to wait for his opportunity to impress. 

Can Iran cause a huge shock?

Iran's victory over Morocco was a historic one for a number of reasons. It was their first win at a World Cup finals since 1998 and is only their second of all time, having competed in five tournaments. To be leading Group B following the opening round of fixtures, must give them belief that they can achieve the unthinkable and reach the knock-out stages of the competition. 

They still have a lot of work to do before achieving that, with both Spain and Portugal to come, but they will have the belief following their win against Morocco. They were very well organised in their opening game and got a bit of luck towards the end with their goal, which is what will be needed if they are to progress further. 

Iran's head coach has spoken pre-match about how "if the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final."

He went on to add that it was not a "miracle" that his side won their opening game of the tournament and that the attitude within the squad is "to try and make the impossible possible."

It will be interesting to see whether Iran can frustrate Spain, just as Tunisia were able to do for large periods against them in their recent friendly match. 

Iran do come into this match with a couple of injury worries. Rouzbeh Cheshmi has been ruled out for the remainder of the tournament following a muscle injury he picked up in training. This means that Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh is likely to replace the defender in the starting line-up. 


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