Team Melli got their first win at the World Cup finals since 21 June 1998, when they beat USA 2-1 in France.

FT! Iran have their win. They stayed in it and finally luck favoured them. It is the first win for an Asian team at the World Cup since Japan last won in 2010. Big win for Iran but Morocco are heart-broken.

It’s only Iran’s second win in WC history. That’s how big it is.

90+5’: Own Goal! BOUHADDOUZ with a perfect header, straight into the goal. Iran hadn’t had a shot in the second half until the goal.

90’: Six minutes added. Things heating up a bit here.

86’: Scrappy second half. One good shot and lots of injury. Just no rhythm to this half.

81’: Da Costa coming on for Harit, who was impressive but lacked the finishing touch. We are into the final ten but expect lots of injury time.

79’: Superb shot by Ziyech and yet another brilliant save to keep the scores level. A. BEIRANVAND has been awesome for Iran.

71’: Iran showing great composure even when they are off the ball. But Morocco are going to lose N. AMRABAT. He fell face first while attempting a tackle and looks like he has suffered a concussion.

68’: Mehdi comes off the bench to replace Iran skipper Shojaei, who was on a yellow.

58’: A bit of a lull. Most of the action taking place in the midfield but not going anywhere after that. Both teams searching for a decisive ball.

49’: The numbers show what Iran have been up against. Just 66 completed passes in the match so far.

49’: Miscue! But another good opportunity goes a-begging. Harit is getting into the right positions again. He is a constant threat.

Teams making their way back onto the field. What football will the second half show us?

45’: And that is HT. The score is still 0-0. Morocco dominated proceedings but the best chance fell to Iran. Still, a riveting first half. Both teams have been lacking the finishing touch though and it will be interesting to see if the managers can bring about the vital change.

42’: Iran were on the break, the pass got through to Sardar but the Moroccan goalkeeper was upto the challenge. That was the best chance of the half and it fell to Iran. They needed to do more with it.

42’: For all their dominance, Morocco has not managed to create any really good chances. In that sense, Iran will be the happier of the two teams if they go to HT with the score still 0-0.

37’: Sardar is down. The physio came on and he is getting some treatment on the sidelines.

33’: Second yellow card of the game. El Ahmadi (Morocco) is booked. A break was on and a professional foul was committed. Resulting free kick was not a very good one.

29’: Another opportunity for Harit but the goalkeeper was in the way. The Schalke youngster is a slippery customer.

28’: Iran trying to slow the game down. They cannot play at the pace that Morocco wants to. But that early burst seems to have taken something out of Morocco too.

25’: Iran showing a few more signs of coming back to life. They have finally started moving the ball out of their own half. Have they weathered the early storm? Coach Carlos Queiroz is on the sideline asking them to calm down.

20’: Finally, something from Iran. They counter but the last ball was lacking. Morocco are pressing hard each time Iran has possessions giving the Asian team no time to find some composure.

18’: A goalmouth scramble and somehow Iran cleared. Two efforts blocked and then finally cleared for a corner. Well worked move from a free kick by Morocco. Is the goal coming? It only seems like a matter of time. Look at Iran’s pass accuracy – story of the match so far.

15’: Harit has been pulling the strings for Morocco. Making good strong runs and distributing the ball well. Neither of these two countries have ever won on the opening day of their World Cup campaign.

13’: Iran trying to soak up the early pressure as a confident-looking Morocco continues to surge forward. Harit has

9’: Yellow card for Iranian captain Shojaei M. Iran are clearly rattled here.

8’: Chance for El Kaabi! He got crowded out and sent the shot wide. Morocco are getting behind the Iranian defence with ease. Not a good sign for Asia’s top team.

4’: 18 games unbeaten, not faced defeat in a year. Morocco are high on confidence and their pace can be unnerving. Iran are struggling to cope with it at the moment. Iran are unable to get out of their own half.

3’: Early tactical battle. Morocco attacking with pace, Iran looking to defend for now.


And we are a go. Both teams are known for their defensive abilities but expect them to go forward and look for goals today. Some solid emotion on display from both sides during the national anthems.

National anthem time

Iranian fans are clustered around southern part of stadium, while the Morrocans are mostly gathered behind the northern goal. A must-win for both teams. Let the fun begin.

Time to make it count

Morocco were the only team not to concede a single goal in the third round of CAF qualifiers for Russia 2018 (six games). The team is built around captain and Juventus defender Medhi Benatia. Their squad also includes Real Madrid defender Achraf Hakimi and Wolves midfielder Romain Saiss.

Best in Asia

By far the best qualifiers in Asia, Iran qualified for the 2018 World Cup with ease – the first time in their history they have achieved such a feat. They were unbeaten in 10 games in the final group stage and conceded only twice.

A streak to be broken

The Iranians are on a 7-match winless (5 losses and 2 draws) streak at the World Cup. Their last win dates back to 1998 when they beat USA 2-1.

Pejman Montazeri is a vital man for them in defence but the man who make the difference is Sardar Azmoun, who has been dubbed by many as the ‘Iranian Messi.’ He has scored 23 goals in 32 games for Iran.

Playing XIs

Morocco Playing XI: Munir, Amrabat, Benatia, Saïss, Achraf, El Ahmadi, Belhanda, Harit, Boussoufa, Ziyech, El Kaabi.

Iran Playing XI: Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, Hajsafi; Ebrahimi, Masoud; Jahanbakhsh, Ansarifard, Amiri; Azmoun.

And so it begins

This will be the first meeting on grass between the two senior teams of Morocco and Iran. They have faced off twice at the FIFA Futsal World Cup (2012, 2016) and once in an international Beach Soccer tournament in 2014, with Iran emerging victorious on all three occasions.

But a look at the world rankings shows that this should be a tight encounter. Both sides will be looking to win this as the other sides in their group are Spain and Portugal.

A long time coming

Morocco return to the World Cup finals after a hiatus of 20 years. Their last appearance was on 23 June 1998, when they beat Scotland 3-0.

Intriguing contest

So Morocco are not going to host the 2026 World Cup. So what? They are 17 matches unbeaten and for the first time in 20 years, have qualfied for the showpiece event. They have several players who are plying their trade in various clubs in Europe. The most high-profile of the players is Juventus defender Mehdi Benatia, the captain.

Striker Khalid Boutaib is a fine striker and was instrumental in his country reaching the competition. Morocco’s unbeaten run didn’t consist of them beating smaller teams; they thrashed continental giants Mali and Ivory Coast.

Iran, meanwhile, are a pugnacious oufit and there was plenty of resilience on display in 2014. Remember when they frustrated the life out of Argentina before a certain Lionel Messi popped up in the final minute to score the winner? Carlos Queiroz’s men stormed through qualifying undefeated in 18 games, conceding just five goals in the process.