Morocco will be looking to upstage Iran when the two nations lock antlers in the opening match of Group B of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
First impressions often count for everything and the stakes in this particular case will be as high as they can get, seeing as Portugal and Spain will be enmeshed in a supremacy battle in the second match of the group.
Portugal head into the World Cup as the European champions having won the title against hosts France in 2016, while the Spanish national team has risen from the ashes, and are as such strong favorites of advancing having overcome a dreadful title defending campaign in Brazil four years ago.
This makes qualify into the knockout stages of the competition all the more harder for Morocco, as only two teams can make it out of the group.
The Lions of the Atlas may need luck by the barrel full to advance into the last 16, but their journey to Russia has had plenty to do with their solid work rate, and little to do with fate.
Morocco registered perhaps the biggest upset in recent memory on the African continent, as they pulled a fast one on Ivory Coast, unreservedly knocking the two-time AFCON champions after finishing top of Group C in the World Cup qualifiers.
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The North Africans have as a result ended their 20-year absence from the global showpiece, as they mark their fifth overall appearance in the finals.
There are a number of positives to be drawn from Morocco. Spirits are at an all-time high in their camp, as their recent 3-1 win over Estonia ensured the North Africans stretched their unbeaten run to 18 games; only one good result shy of drawing level with Spain who haven’t tasted defeat in a staggering 19 matches.
Julen Lopetegui’s fine run with La Furia Roja attracted better suitors, as the 51-year old is poised to take over the reins of power at the Santiago Bernabeu, following Zinedine Zidane’s resignation as manager of Real Madrid.
Morocco equally have an exceptional head coach in Herve Renard, who is the only manager to have lifted the Africa Cup of Nations with two different countries, having inspired Zambia and Ivory Coast to success in 2012 and 2015 respectively.
The French manager has a number of rough diamonds in his ranks, with Mehdi Benatia of Juventus and Achraf Hakimi of Real Madrid being the most notable names in the squad. 19-year old Hakimi made history by becoming the first Moroccan to win the Champions League, following Real Madrid’s 3-1 rout over Liverpool in the final last month.
Seventeen of Morocco’s 23-man squad in Russia is, by and large, made up of players born outside the country, albeit still eligible to play for the Lions of the Atlas due to dual citizenship.
It has become somewhat of a trend for foreign born players, more so from Europe, to dominate African national teams in recent years, something coaches managing African teams highly approve of, due to the quality assurance and experience they inject into the squad.
Whereas Morocco have had a smooth ride in their preparations for the World Cup, even facing the possibility of hosting the tournament in 2026, the same can’t be said about Iran.
The Iranian national football team woke up to the news that Nike boots will not be supplied to their players for the World Cup, this coming as a result of renewed sanctions by the United States.
Nike went on to release an official statement addressing their regret as they have little option but to comply or risk facing ludicrous fines from the US government as they are an American company, a decision that Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz has bemoaned as it comes only a few days to their opening match.
The former Real Madrid manager, who also served as assistant manager at Manchester United under Sir Alex Ferguson, has since called on FIFA to intervene; the likelihood of that happening being similar to that of a football club playing in the FIFA World Cup.
Morocco vs. Iran Match prediction
Despite all their woes off the pitch, Iran are quite a decent lot on it. They became the first team from the Asian Football Confederation to qualify for the tournament, and are ranked 37th in the most recent FIFA standings.
Morocco on the other hand have a contingent of well drilled foreign born players, and are ranked 41st in the last FIFA rankings released ahead of the World Cup.
It’s hard enough getting pitted in a group with the likes of Portugal and Spain, but either Morocco or Iran still stands a realistic chance of advancing, considering there can only be one winner in the second match of the group between the two European powerhouses.
|Best Bet||Odds||Bet Now|
|Morocco to win||+125 at WilliamHill||Place Bet|
|Morocco to win/draw||-400 at WilliamHill||Place Bet|
Morocco & Iran recent results
Estonia 1-3 Morocco (June 9, 2018)
Morocco 2-1 Slovakia (June 4, 2018)
Morocco 0-0 Ukraine (May 31, 2018)
Iran 1-0 Lithuania (June 8, 2018)
Turkey 2-1 Iran (May 28, 2018)
Iran 1-0 Uzbekistan (May 19, 2018)
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