Morocco boss Herve Renard may be the only man to win the African Cup of Nations with two different teams – Zambia and Ivory Coast – but the Frenchman makes his bow as a World Cup manager yesterday as his side appear at the World up for the first time in 20 years. The Atlas Lions have only made it past the group stage once, in Mexico 1986.
Mirroring their opponents, Iran are making their fifth World Cup appearance and, for the first time ever, are featuring in consecutive tournaments, having competed at Brazil 2014. Manager Carlos Queiroz can go one better; he makes his third showing in a row, having guided Portugal to the knock-out stages at Spain 2010.
Neither side offers a stellar record at the World Cup; between them, Morocco and Iran have managed three wins in 25 games across eight tournament appearances. Neither have ever won an opening game in the competition either; both have a chance to write a little bit of history on Krestovsky Island.
Team news ahead of kick-off and Iran looked to their star winger Alireza Jahanbakhsh to help guide them to victory today. The 24-year-old, who plays for AZ Alkmaar in the Dutch Eredivisie, finished last season as the division’s highest scorer with 21 goals, marking the first occasion that an Asian player has topped the scoring charts in a European league.
As for Morocco, they hoped that Hakim Ziyech can deliver the goods; their star attacker notched up 11 assists in qualifying, more than any other African player, and was awarded the Dutch Footballer of the Year Award for his performances with Ajax during the 2017-18 campaign.
MOROCCO (4-5-1): Munir Mohamedi; Achraf Hakimi, Medhi Benatia, Nordin Amrabat, Romain Saiss; Younes Belhanda, Hakim Ziyech, Amine Harit, Moubarak Boussoufa, Karim El Ahmadi; Ayoub El Kaabi.
Subs: Bono, Khalid Boutaib, Ahmed Reda Tagnaouti, Nabil Dirar, Sofyan Amrabat, Hamza Mendyl, Aziz Bouhaddouz, Manuel da Costa, Faycal Fajr, Youssef Aït Bennasser, Mehdi Carcela-González, Youssef En-Nesyri.
IRAN (4-5-1): Alireza Beiranvand; Morteza Pouraliganji, Ramin Rezaeian, Ehsan Haji Safi, Rouzbeh Cheshmi; Vahid Amiri, Omid Ebrahimi, Masoud Shojaei, Karim Ansarifard, Alireza Jahanbakhsh; Sardar Azmoun.
Subs: Mohammad Reza Khanzadeh, Majid Hosseini, Mohammad Rashid Mazaheri, Milad Mohammadi, Saman Ghoddos, Ashkan Dejagah, Amir Abedzadeh, Mehdi Taremi, Mehdi Torabi, Reza Ghoochannejhad, Pejman Montazeri.
Stream Morocco vs. Iran – Highlights & Goals (WC Russia2018) high quality video/mp4 below.