2018 World Cup: Morocco and Iran Group B game will be their ‘fi­nal’

Tehran Times - - SPORTS -

Coach­ing staff from Morocco and Iran say their open­ing Group B clash on 15 June will be like a ‘World Cup fi­nal.’

The coun­tries will also meet reign­ing Euro­pean cham­pi­ons Por­tu­gal and 2010 World Cup win­ners Spain in Rus­sia next year.

“It will be like our World Cup fi­nal - we’ll play like we are play­ing for our lives,” said Iran coach Car­los Queiroz.

“The first game will be our fi­nal,” Morocco as­sis­tant coach Mustapha Hadji told BBC Sport.

“It will be a tough game be­cause we watched Iran in qual­i­fy­ing and they have a very good team and a very good spirit.

“But if we win, we have a great op­por­tu­nity to reach the sec­ond round. That’s what we are com­ing for.”

Not only are there qual­ity play­ers in the Moroc­can teams but a lot of spirit too.

Iran were the first Asian team to qual­ify for next year’s fi­nals, set­ting the record for the most con­sec­u­tive clean sheets in World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion when go­ing 12 games and a to­tal of 1121 min­utes - with­out con­ced­ing.

Fol­low­ing the St Peters­burg clash, Morocco face Por­tu­gal on 20 June in Moscow be­fore a fi­nal group clash against Spain in Kalin­ingrad on 25 June.

Iran, mean­while, face Spain in Kazan on 20 June be­fore meet­ing Cris­tiano Ron­aldo’s Por­tu­gal in Saransk five days later.

Like Iran, Morocco also re­lied on a strong de­fense in qual­i­fy­ing, and Queiroz - a former Real Madrid man­ager who coached South Africa be­tween 2000-2002 - is un­der no il­lu­sions about the chal­lenge the North Africans will pro­vide.

“It’s a great team with fan­tas­tic play­ers and a great coach (Herve Re­nard),” added Queiroz.

“In qual­i­fy­ing, they did not lose one game nor con­cede one goal so that tells you ev­ery­thing about the qual­ity of the team.”

Hadji, mean­while, be­lieves Morocco have noth­ing to lose when fac­ing Por­tu­gal and Spain - who are ranked 3rd and 6th in the world re­spec­tively.

“They are big na­tions of foot­ball and have won ev­ery­thing al­ready,” said the 1998 African Foot­baller of the Year.

“So that’s why we have noth­ing to lose against th­ese two. We have to play our foot­ball and fight - ac­tu­ally to give ev­ery­thing against them - be­cause we know that it is not go­ing to be easy.

“But we can sur­prise them,” he ral­lied.

Morocco, who are at their first fi­nals since 1998 (when Hadji was play­ing), have pre­vi­ously topped a group in­volv­ing Por­tu­gal, when fin­ish­ing above Eng­land and Poland in the 1986 World Cup.

“They were tough games but Morocco did it be­cause they had the qual­ity. To­day, we have - I think - the same feel­ing. Not only are there qual­ity play­ers in the Moroc­can teams but a lot of spirit too.”

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