Morocco vs Iran: Northern Africans too strong in Saint-Petersburg

The Atlas Lions can kick start their World Cup with a win.
Loading
Morroco can get the job done against Iran in Saint-Petersburg (FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP/Getty Images)

Morocco vs Iran Preview & Betting Tips


Morocco take on Iran at the Saint-Petersburg Stadium as both nations begin their World Cup campaigns. The underrated Africans have been building strongly towards Russia 2018 and can get the job done against Team Melli.

Morocco


The Atlas Lions qualified for their fifth World Cup and first since 1998 in style, undefeated in Group C African qualification without conceding a single goal. Manager Hervé Renard also guided a second string side to victory in the African Nations Championship in February.

Morocco are undefeated in their last 18 matches. They have a strong spine in captain and central defender Medhi Benatia, holding midfielder Karim El Ahmadi with flair coming from Younès Belhanda and Hakim Ziyech. Striker Ayoub El Kaabi could be a wild card, the 24-year-old has scored 11 goals in 10 appearances for his nation.

Belhanda opened the scoring in the last two matches, a 2-1 win against Slovakia and a 3-1 victory against Estonia. The 28-year-old has had a nomadic career, playing in France, Ukraine, Germany and now in Turkey with Galatasary, but there is no doubt he can be an influential player on his day.

They have the potential to surprise in Russia despite being drawn alongside Spain and Portugal in Group B. A win here against Iran is vital if they have any chance of progressing into the Round of 16. 

Iran


Iran qualified for their fifth World Cup after finishing top of their Asian qualifying group, going undefeated and conceding just twice. They haven’t played a competitive game since September 2017, with 10 friendlies since then including seven wins, a draw and two defeats.

Managed by experienced Portuguese manager Carlos Queiroz since 2011, Team Melli would have learned much after competing at Brazil 2014 where they were eliminated in the group stage despite battling hard against Nigeria and Argentina.

Based on defensive organisation, Iran have an interesting group of attackers that could cause some damage. 23-year-old Sardar Azmoun was Iran’s top scorer in qualification and has already scored 23 international goals in 33 appearances. 

Alireza Jahanbakhsh flourished at AZ Alkmaar last season with 22 goals and 12 assists, fellow Eredivisie player Reza Ghoochannejhad scored 9 goals for Heerenveen last season after bagging 20 in 2016/17. 21-year-old central midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi is suspended for Iran.

Match Up


These nations have never met before. It’s going to be an intriguing battle but Morocco have a superior squad, have been in great form and have more attacking weapons that can trouble Iran’s defence. 

Key Statistics


  • Morocco are undefeated in their last 18 matches, winning 13 and keeping 10 clean sheets (All competitions).
  • Morocco have won 5 of their last 6 matches (All competitions).
  • Hakim Ziyech has scored 9 goals in 18 matches for Morocco (All competitions).
  • Iran have won 1 and lost 8 of their 12 World Cup matches.

Verdict


Morocco are incredibly hard to beat and are full of confidence. They have a strong spine and an array of attacking talent that can certainly trouble Iran here.

Iran’s two recent wins were 1-0 victories against Uzbekistan and Lithuania, hardly top class opponents. Morocco will be much a sterner test and should come out on top.

Best Bet: Morocco win @ 2.32
Anytime Goalscorer: Hakim Ziyech @ 4.20
profile
Matthew Marshall 15 June 2018

2022 FIFA World Cup Previews & Tips