Following a draw in their opening fixture, Spain will look to bounce back to form when they face Iran at the Kazan Arena on Wednesday.
Spain were involved in arguably the most dramatic match in this edition of the FIFA World Cup as they played out a stunning 3-3 draw with Portugal in their opening fixture. After falling behind twice, the 2010 World Cup champions went ahead in the second half through goals from Nacho and Diego Costa, who scored a brace.
But in the end, they were denied two points thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo’s sensational free-kick in the dying embers of the game. This time, however, Spain won’t be challenged with stopping Ronaldo as they lock horns with World No. 37, Iran at Kazan this midweek.
The Asian giants, quite surprisingly, sit on top of the group table which consists of European powerhouses in the likes of Portugal and Spain. Team Melli won their opening game in the most uncommon fashion when a late own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz sealed all three points for Carlos Queiroz’s men, lifting them to the very top of the Group B standings.
It would be a crucial encounter for both the teams, especially with a couple of surprising results in the first round of fixtures, which has opened up the group. A win for Spain is imperative as they seek not to replicate their 2014 World Cup massacre in Brazil while Iran will be up for the challenge as well, knowing a draw could give them a huge boost in their attempts to qualify for the knockout rounds.
Team News and Tactics
Star playmaker Isco has recently praised interim Spain coach Fernando Hierro for having the wisdom not to make drastic changes in the team, following the sack of Julen Loptegui, about a week ago. And the former Real Madrid defender is likely to remain true to his identity. Thus we can expect Spain to remain unchanged from their draw against Portugal.
David de Gea, following his shock error against Portugal, will be focused on preserving a clean sheet while the defensive duo of Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique definitely need to step up their game if they are to stop Iran this midweek.
Dani Carvajal continues to remain on the sidelines and will be deputised by his Real Madrid teammate Nacho, who scored his first ever goal for Spain in the 3-3 draw against Portugal. Elsewhere, Jordi Alba will be deployed as the left-back.
The midfield trio of Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta and Koke are expected retain their place in the starting eleven at the base of the 4-3-3. Their poor showing in the opening fixture, however, could mean that Fernando Hierro could contemplate starting with Thiago Alcantara. Koke will be the likely omission should Hierro opt for the Bayern Munich superstar this midweek.
Spain’s attack will be led by Diego Costa, who silenced the critics following his brace against Portugal. Iago Aspas will, thus, have to wait a bit longer before he can make an impression in Spain colours. Costa will be partnered by Isco and David Silva, who was excellent in the last game.
Predicted Lineups (4-3-3): de Gea; Nacho, Ramos, Pique, Alba; Koke, Busquets, Iniesta; Isco, Costa, Silva.
Despite winning their opening fixture against Morocco, Iran head coach Carlos Queiroz won’t be taking anything for granted in the upcoming matches. On the contrary, the Asian giants were very ineffective in the offensive zones, which is something that needs to be addressed if they are to prevail against Spain on Wednesday.
The onus will be on goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand to once again save his side’s blushes this midweek. His performance against Morocco was key as Iran snatched out all three points against the North Africans.
However, the 29-year-old will be dealt with a significantly tougher challenge of facing the dangerous Spanish attack, meaning he will definitely seek help from Iran’s unchanged back four comprising of Ramin Rezaeian, Rouzbeh Cheshmi, Morteza Pouraliganji and Ehsan Hajsafi.
Omid Ebrahimi will sit in front of the back-four partnered by Vahid Amiri and Masoud Shojaei in slightly advanced positions. On the flanks, Karim Ansarifard and Alireza Jahanbaksh will be tasked with the responsibility of providing width to the attack as well as helping them in the defensive phases.
In attack, head coach Carlos Queiroz will be relying on Sardar Azmoun, who is by far the most gifted player in the Iran squad. The Rubin Kazan striker will actually be playing at his club’s home stadium, which will, no doubt, hand him an extra boost as he looks to make an impression against Spain.
Probable Starting Lineup (4-1-4-1): Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Cheshmi, Pouraliganji, Hajsafi; Ebrahimi; Ansarifard, Amiri, Shojaei, Jahanbaksh; Azmoun.
- Iran have kept a clean sheet in 13 of their last 14 matches.
- Iran are undefeated in their last 19 matches.
- Spain are undefeated in their last 12 matches.
- Spain have scored at least 2 goals in 8 of their last 9 matches.
Player To Watch
The Manchester City superstar has been a consistent performer for both club and country over the past few years and will no doubt be a key component for Spain in their game against Iran.
A seasoned veteran at the highest level of football, Silva has already notched up 126 caps for his country. His ability to create a plethora chances in the final third coupled with his proficiency in utilizing spaces even in tight zones is what makes him such a unique operator in the attacking department.
Arguably Spain’s best performer in their opening game against Portugal, fans will hope that David Silva can once again come up with some magic to reinvigorate their campaign.
Spain 2-0 Iran
Although Iran come into this fixture having the most points in the group, Spain’s individual superiority will prove too much for the World Cup minnows. Diego Costa has already looked impressive early on and will be keen to further his scoring tally against a weak looking Iranian defence. However, that’s not to say that Iran will be any pushovers either.
We have already seen a fair share of upsets in this World Cup and it remains to be seen whether or not Carlos Queiroz’s side manage to draft in what would arguably the biggest upset in this year’s World Cup campaign.