Iran v Morocco: Underdogs go head-to-head with both quietly confident of shocks

Colin Millar by Colin Millar / 14 June 2018, 21:02

Both Iran and Morocco must be cursing their luck, being paired with pre-tournament favourites Spain alongside European champions Portugal. However, neither of these sides will be pushovers and shock progress for neither can be ruled out following sustained spells of strong form.

These two Group B sides have never met before, either at a competitive level or in friendly matches. The Asian side have now qualified for four of the last six FIFA World Cup competitions but have never advanced beyond the group stage.

The majority of Carlos Queiroz’s side are based in Europe and have built their success upon a solid defence and tactical discipline.

Morocco, captained by Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia, are in their fifth World Cup finals but their first in the 21st century and they’ve only once progressed beyond the groups.

Neither side will be confident of progressing through this group but Morocco will enter this game as favourites, due to a recent 18-game unbeaten run. The African side topped a tough group which included Ivory Coast and Mali, while Iran finished seven points clear of the Korea Republic in their group.

Morocco are priced at the short odds of 5/4 to win their opening game, with Iran available at 3/1 and the draw at 2/1.

The North African team’s boss Herve Renard, previously manager of Cambridge United, insists: “The important thing is to keep our way of working. It’s about making defensive adjustments. While noting that some players are “less ready than others,” which he calls it “normal at this stage.”

Herve Renard

Pictured: Herve Renard, Morocco Manager

Both these sides are built on strong defences and being hard to break down, so few goals in this encounter is a likely scenario. Iran have only conceded more than once in a game on two occasions in a 36-game run dating back to Sweden 3-1, March 2015. Meanwhile Morocco have conceded just four goals in their last 13 games.

Fewer than 2.5 goals is priced at 4/9 while under 1.5 goals is available at 11/8.

Rubin Kazan striker Sardar Azmoun is Iran’s top active international goal scorer, with 23 goals in 32 appearances and is available at 15/4 to find the net at any point in this game, while Ayoub El Kaabi is Morocco’s top scorer (10 goals) despite having only one eight international caps. El Kaabi is priced at 5/2 to score at any time.

Prediction: Morocco 1-0 Iran

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