Three Thoughts: Iran vs Spain at the 2018 World Cup


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Three Thoughts: Iran vs Spain at the 2018 World Cup

By Stephen McKimmy

Iran may not have got a result against Spain, but they showed well.

Spain is a top team and anyone expecting Iran to go punch -for-punch with such a heavy weight is likely deluded. Sensibly, Iran Manager Carlos Queiroz sent his side out to play a defensive and pragmatic match. Andres Iniesta and company may have held a wildly asymmetrical portion of possession during the match, but Team Melli held Spain goalless until the 54th minute. The goal, scored by Diego Costa and Spain’s only goal of the match, was a somewhat lucky one as well, with Costa’s shot being blocked by an Iranian defender before ricocheting into the back of the net off the forward’s thigh. Iran nearly leveled the match eight minutes later when Saied Ezatolahi scored, only to have it called back for offsides.

Though a one-nil loss will not earn Iran any points, such a narrow margin of defeat against an opponent as accomplished as Spain in nothing to hang your head about.

Someone needs to score.

Though the own goal is having quite the tournament—with five own goals in the tournament, enough to lead the Golden Boot race—Iran would like to see someone in their eighteen score. Iran’s lone goal came from a Moroccan own goal and have not scored since. It might be unfair to blame forward Sardar Azmoun and winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh, who entered the tournament with such high expectations, for the lack of goals, as opportunities have been limited. However, if Iran wants to remember the 2018 World Cup as more than the time they held Spain to one goal, Azmoun and Jahanbakhsh will need to bury the few chances they get.

Iran is still very much alive, though Portugal looms.

The strong performance against Spain could be inspiring or it could be exhausting. After a hard-fought match against a first-class side, Iran faces another difficult side in Portugal. Portugal is tied with Spain at four points for the Group B lead. Iran trails closely with three points and should they manage an unlikely upset against Portugal, Team Melli would see the Round of 16. Iran should be bolstered by their performance against Spain. Against Portugal, Iran would only have to find a solution for Christiano Ronaldo, instead of David Silva, Diego Costa, Andres Iniesta, et al. Then again Ronaldo is only Ronaldo.


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