First World Cup meeting between sides

Elena Summers
June 17, 2018

Aziz Bouhaddouz scored an own goal as Iran handed Morocco a 1-0 win in their opening group B game on Friday.

Iran's counter-attacking strategy had failed to bear fruit with Karim Ansarifard and Sardar Azmoun squandering great chances until their wastefulness was rendered irrelevant by Bouhaddouz's late error.

Morocco boss Herve Renard reveals that his players are feeling down following the "cruel" 1-0 defeat to Iran in Friday's World Cup Group B encounter in St Petersburg.

The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.

Younes Belhanda headed past the post from Nordin Amrabat's cross shortly after as Morocco found their way behind the Iran defence easily, before Ayoub El Kaabi failed to test Alireza Beiranvand in the Iran goal when he swung wildly at a chance from 18 yards.

The injuries meant that six minutes were added to the second half.

Hakim Ziyach forced a save out of Alireza Beiranvand as Younes Belhanda headed the ball to him and he hit a half-volley at goal. But Beiranvand was brisk enough to catch it.

The Group B match in Saint Petersburg had been heading for a goalless draw until Bouhaddouz's unfortunate intervention as he tried to clear Ehsan Haji Safi's cross but only directed it past his own goalkeeper.


Morocco's fans, at a World Cup for the first time in 20 years, belted out their own national anthem and then applauded Iran's, the 67,000-seater arena buzzing with the hum of vuvuzelas in a throwback to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

"My players are down, but we can only blame ourselves", said coach Herve Renard.

Carlos Queiroz, who asked Nike to apologise for their actions on Wednesday, echoed Jahanbakhsh's comments following the match and asked for politics and sport to be separated at the World Cup so that "his boys could play football".

Queiroz has relied on a four-man defence for most of the time and is likely to stick with his usual formation.

"Against Spain, everyone from the goalkeeper to the striker can create things so we have to think of a different strategy". "This is exactly what happened today", he said at the post-game press conference. "It is an impossible mission, but our attitude is to make the impossible possible", he said.

Medhi Benatia will be the key player who could be responsible for Morocco's outcome at the World Cup.

Aziz Bouhaddouz of Morocco (not pictured) scores an own goal past Monir El Kajoui for Iran's match-winning goal in stoppage time.

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