Two of the tournament’s biggest mystery teams will square off in Group B action on Friday when the Moroccans do battle with Iran.
The Atlas Lions of Morocco have been pegged as a potential surprise outfit at Russia 2018 and should be able to put the pressure on some of the big foes in Group B. While they’re not quite at the level of Spain or even Portugal, in a one-game shortened tournament format, the Moroccans do many things that will give teams fits. Iran will be need to be at their best in their opening match to secure a result.
The Iranians enter the World Cup looking to set their own history. In four previous visits to the sport’s grandest stage, they’ve never proceeded from the group stage. Though they do have some nice pieces such as Juventus’ Mehdi Benatia and scoring threat Sardar Azmoun, there might not be enough in this lineup to secure many points from a tough Group B.
Morocco vs. Iran Betting Odds:
- Morocco (+120)
- Iran (+290)
- Draw (+200)
- Over 2 (+125) Under 2 (-145)
Morocco vs. Iran Pick:
Although both of these sides would openly admit that there is a clear divide between Spain and Portugal, and then Morocco and Iran – both of these minnows feel there are vulnerabilities.
Portugal sends an aging squad that can be a tad reliant on Ronaldo times, while Spain is currently enduring some intriguing turmoil in their camp after a last-minute managerial firing has sent shockwaves through the footballing world. We’ll have more on that later in our Portugal/Spain preview.
In this match, I’d expect both sides to be pretty adventurous to try and secure the full three points. Of course, this would boost their chances of advancing forward – and though that kind of style isn’t really within either team concept, look for the Moroccans to be more suited because of the talent within their group.
Both Iran and Morocco had excellent qualifying campaigns in terms of goals allowed. Morocco was basically an impenetrable wall, not conceding once against other African sides. That type of rigidity will serve them well in Russia, and if you recall from my Group B preview, the Moroccans have the quality to definitely advance.
Look for Morocco to line up in a more attack-minded 4-3-3 formation with midfielder Hakim Ziyech serving as the lynchpin and the creator. Manager Herve Renard is well aware that progressing from this group means the need to secure three points against a lowly Iran side, and they might need to take a few more chances than they’re accustomed to.
For the Iranians, it will likely be more of the same style as what brought them here. They’re rocks in defense, and that is their team identity. Morocco however do have the type of squad that can create trouble for Iran. Just because they play defensive-minded, it doesn’t mean they are devoid of talent. Look for Ziyech to link brilliantly up front with Khalid Boutaib to give the Iranians a test that they didn’t ever face in all of qualifying. I like the Moroccans here to send a message to the rest of the tournament that they’re no joke, and could be a real problem for Spain and Portugal going forward.