Spain will be searching for their first win of the 2018 World Cup against Group B toppers Iran as the two face off at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday.
This will be the first-ever fixture between the two nations, not to mention in the World Cup betting, and Fernando Hierro and co. know that this is a must-win after failing to beat Portugal…
Who to look out for: Diego Costa & Sardar Azmoun
Diego Costa was clinical on Friday, scoring Spain's opening two goals. His opener saw him beat two Portugal defenders, before slotting the ball into the bottom-left corner, while his second goal showed his poacher instincts as he tapped home from a free-kick. The Atletico Madrid hitman will be keen to add to his tally of two goals so far, but Iran’s defence stayed strong against Morocco, and they will be looking to keep Costa quiet.
Sardar Azmoun, on the other hand, endured a tough campaign with Russian side Rubin Kazan, but he has been impressive for Iran on the international stage. The winger played a key part in qualifying, netting on 11 occasions as his country topped their qualifying group without a single defeat. While Azmoun failed to score against Morocco, he will no doubt relish the chance to shock the world and help Iran get something, in what will be a tough game for them.
How did they fare in their opening games?
Spain took on against Iberian neighbours Portugal and were held to a 3-3 draw. The Selecao took the lead thanks to an early penalty dispatched by Cristiano Ronaldo, but La Roja hit back thanks to Costa. Ronaldo gave Portugal the lead again before half-time, but two goals from Costa and Nacho put Spain in front for the first time. As the game was drawing to an end, Ronaldo completed his hat-trick with a wonderful free kick to make sure it would end in a draw.
As for their opponents, Iran won only their second World Cup match against fellow group underdogs Morocco. Despite failing to register a shot on target in the second half, the Asians ran out winners thanks to a 95th-minute own-goal by Bouhaddouz. It leaves them surprisingly top of the group and La Roja down in third, with only a point to their name.
It's likely that after their win, Iran won't change much against Spain. A 4-1-4-1 formation will probably be used again, as should La Roja’s 4-3-3.
Iran (probable): Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, Hajsafi; Ebrahimi; Jahanbakhsh, Shojaei, Amiri, Ansarifard; Azmoun
Spain (probable): De Gea; Nacho, Pique, Ramos, Alba; Thiago, Busquets, Iniesta; Silva, Costa, Isco
Despite Iran providing a shock and nicking all three points against Morocco, Spain seem just far too superior and it’s likely that Costa will cause Iran’s defence problems all game.
Although it’s true that we've already seen some shocks, the Asian outfit pulling another doesn't look likely. We’re going for Spain 4-0 Iran.