Iran’s players celebrate their victory as Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz (bottom R) reacts after a group B match between Morocco and Iran at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Saint Petersburg, Russia, June 15, 2018. — Photo Xinhua
Viet Nam News
SAINT PETERSBURG — Iran’s players stormed the pitch at full-time as if they had won the World Cup rather than just their opening match in Russia after an own goal from Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz gifted them a dramatic 1-0 victory on Friday.
Wasteful finishing looked to have consigned this compelling contest at the Saint Petersburg Stadium to a goalless draw but Bouhaddouz’s mistake in injury-time means Iran emerge as the early challengers to Spain and Portugal in Group B.
Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, once of Real Madrid and Manchester United, insisted the chaos that has engulfed Spain this week offered no boost to these teams’ chances, but this victory certainly cranks the pressure up a notch.
When Bouhaddouz nodded in at the near post, Iran’s substitutes could not resist rushing onto the field and when the final whistle blew moments later they were sprinting over again in delight.
Morocco should at least take heart from a blistering first half an hour, during which their zip and zest made them virtually unplayable. But Hakim Ziyach, Ayoub El Kaabi and Mehdi Benatia all failed to capitalise.
But Iran showed the same grit that had frustrated Argentina for 91 minutes four years ago and while Lionel Messi was the difference that day, this time it was their turn to snatch a last-gasp winner.
Their build-up had not been smooth. Nike had blocked the players’ supply of boots and friendlies against Greece and Kosovo were cancelled. — AFP