Portugal will take on Colombia at the Mordovia Arena on Monday, but who are the three players worth keeping a closer look on in this highly important Group B encounter?
Portugal will look to seal their place in the Round of 16 when they meet Iran at the Mordovia Arena on Monday. The Iberian giants are already in a good position with four points and thus, are primed to qualify for the knockout stages. Following a draw against Spain and a win against Morocco, Portugal only need a draw in order to book a ticket to the next round with Morocco already knocked out.
Iran, on the other hand, were unfortunate not to snatch a point against Spain, but will be confident of their chance against Portugal, despite being tagged as underdogs. The AFC giants have performed significantly better as the tournament has progressed and head coach Carlos Queiroz will be hoping his side can continue their good form in their final group on Monday.
However, they must register a victory in order to successfully qualify for the next round, making it one of the most important fixtures at the 2018 FIFA World Cup. Here at The Hard Tackle, we pick out three players who could play a vital role in this highly anticipated encounter.
Arguably the best performer for Iran in this edition of the FIFA World Cup, Ramin Rezaeian will be tasked with the responsibility leading his side in the defensive department as they look to stop the dangerous Portuguese attack.
Rezaeian, who plays his club football in Belgium with KV Oostende, has shown immense commitment and defensive solidity in the first couple of matches. The 28-year-old was particularly impressive in the game against Spain, playing a key role in defence as Iran almost managed to contain the mighty Spanish attack, being ultimately being thwarted by Diego Costa’s second-half winner.
Against Portugal, Ramin Rezaeian will likely be up against Bruno Fernandes, but the right-back is expected to shift into a central role in order to help the centre-halves stop the dangerous Cristiano Ronaldo, with the wingers dropping in deeper roles.
Rezaeian attempted eight tackles against Spain, more than anyone else on the pitch and thus, Carlos Queiroz will hope he can pull off a similar performance in this all-important fixture on Monday.
Despite a game that was totally dominated by Spain, Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand had very little to do as his side prevented their opposition of having clear attempts at goal.
However, Beiranvand should expect a very different scenario as they face Portugal, who have looked quite dangerous in the attacking department. Cristiano Ronaldo, in particular, is destined to pose a strong threat to the Iranian defence and the onus will be on the 25-year-old goalkeeper to save Iran’s blushes.
Alireza Beiranvand’s incredible performance handed Iran all three points in the opener against Morocco, when he made a series of saves to preserve his clean sheet. Thus, head coach Carlos Queiroz will hope that Beiranvand can step up to the plate once again in this all-important fixture.
Following the failures of the Portuguese attackers in front of goal, Portugal will once again be heavily dependent on the services of Cristiano Ronaldo as they aim to seal a place in the knockout rounds.
Ronaldo, who has already scored all of Portugal’s four goals in the tournament so far, has been one of the best players in the competition. Additionally, the Real Madrid superstar is in the running to win the Golden Boot, with his tally of four goals just one behind England’s Harry Kane.
Following a stunning hat-trick in the opening game against Spain, Ronaldo appeared to be less effective last time out against Morocco, but still scored the winner nonetheless. However, things will prove to be much difficulty against an Iranian defence that has shown its mettle against Spain.
Cristiano Ronaldo will likely partner Goncalo Guedes in the two-man forward line once again, with the Manchester United target’s performance likely shaping Portugal’s fate against the Asian giants.