Cristiano Ronaldo will have his eyes on the Golden Boot as well as his team’s qualification into the knockout rounds as Portugal face Iran at the Mordovia Arena on Monday.

The final set of group games will kick off on Monday as Portugal faces off against Iran in a crucial Group B encounter. At the Mordovia Arena, these two teams, both having substantial chances of qualifying into the next stage, will look to play to their potential. However, a defeat for either of these sides could pulverize their World Cup hopes.

Portugal are primed to make it out of the groups, with Cristiano Ronaldo’s four goals firing them into a comfortable position on the table. The Iberian giants need a point in order to seal their place in the last 16 but can still hope to qualify with a defeat if Spain lose their match against Morocco by a bigger margin.

Both Spain and Portugal currently have identical records and are separated by Fair Play records (red cards/yellow cards).

Iran, on the other hand, have done significantly well in their opening two games against Morocco and Spain, despite losing out against the latter. A second-half goal from Diego Costa proved to be fatal as the Atletico Madrid striker snatched all three points for Spain. However, Carlos Queiroz’s men will be taking pride in their performance against mighty Spain and will look to capitalize on their good form as they face Portugal on Monday.

They must win this highly important clash in order to qualify for the knockout rounds and could even top the group, should Spain lose their game against Morocco.

Therefore, it promises to be a highly entertaining clash with both teams fighting for their survival in the tournament. And the Hard Tackle takes a closer look at this heavily contested Group B battle.

Team News & Tactics

Portugal

Portugal have been one of the most impressive sides in the tournament thus far, largely due to the incredible performances of Cristiano Ronaldo. In fact, the Portuguese superstars have been only one of the few players who have stood for Portugal in this year’s World Cup with the rest of the team’s performance bordering on mediocre status.

SOCHI, RUSSIA - JUNE 15: Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal celebrates with team mates after scoring his team's second goal of the match during the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia group B match between Portugal and Spain at Fisht Stadium on June 15, 2018 in Sochi, Russia. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

Portugal need to stick together as a team once again. (Photo by Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images)

This will be a cause for concern for head coach Fernando Santos, who is expected to make at least one change from the team that edged Morocco 1-0. Joao Mario, who was ineffective against the North African giants, is set to make way for Bruno Fernandes. The Sporting CP winger was dropped for his poor performance against Spain but will look to bounce back with a better showing this time out.

Borussia Dortmund’s Raphael Guerreiro was also awful against Morocco but is expected to retain his place in the starting lineup. The attacking duo of Cristiano Ronaldo and Goncalo Guedes is also set to remain unchanged, despite Guedes appearing tentative at times during the course of this tournament.

Cristiano Ronaldo has scored all of Portugal’s four goals in this World Cup but coach Fernando Santos will soon need the other players to start hitting the hay if they are to advance further in the tournament.

Predicted Lineup(4-4-2): Patricio; Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro; Silva, Carvalho, Moutinho, Fernandes; Ronaldo, Guedes.

Iran

Despite suffering a defeat against Spain in the last game, Iran were pretty solid in the defensive department which will be a huge boost for head coach Carlos Queiroz. The Portuguese mastermind will be facing his native country as he aims to guide Iran through to the knockout stages.

A comprehensive performance from Ramin Rezaeian earned Iran a win as well as a clean sheet. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

Ramin Rezaeian will once again be crucial for Iran on Sunday. (Photo courtesy: AFP/Getty)

The likes of Ramin Rezaeian and Alireza Beiranvand have been Iran’s best performers in the competition so far and their performance will likely shape out their fate against Portugal. Omid Ebrahimi overcame injury to start against Spain and will likely retain his place in midfield alongside Vahid Amiri.

In attack, the AFC giants are expected to make at least one change with Alireza Jahanbaksh coming in for Mehdi Taremi. The 24-year-old was only fit enough to start in the bench against Spain but fans will he can make the cut against Portugal on Monday. The onus, however, will be on Sardar Azmoun to come up with the goals as Iran aim to cause a huge upset in their final group game.

Predicted Lineup(4-1-4-1): Beiranvand; Rezaeian, Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Haji Safi; Ezatolahi; Jahanbaksh, Ebrahimi, Amiri, Ansarifard; Azmound.

Key Stats

  • This is Iran and Portugal’s second encounter at the World Cup after 2006. Portugal won 2-0 thanks to goals from Deco and Cristiano Ronaldo — it was Ronaldo’s first ever goal in the tournament.
  • Portugal has won three of its four World Cup games against Asian opposition, losing against host nation South Korea in 2002.
  • Iran is winless in seven World Cup meetings against European sides (D1 L6), with that draw coming against Scotland in 1978.
  • Portugal’s 1-0 win over Morocco last time out was its first World Cup clean sheet since a goalless draw with Brazil in 2010, ending a run of five matches without a shutout.

Player to Watch

Cristiano Ronaldo

The GOAT was on target again in Russia (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Cristiano Ronaldo will definitely need some stopping. (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

With most of the Portuguese attackers failing to find the back of the net, all eyes will once again be on Cristiano Ronaldo, especially after a stunning start to the tournament. The Real Madrid superstar has scored all of Portugal’s four goals so far in the competition and is also leading the race for the Golden Boot along with Romelu Lukaku.

From his hattrick against Spain to his winner against Morocco, Ronaldo has been inspiration in this tournament not just for the fans but for the players as well. Therefore, stopping him would be imperative if Iran are to salvage anything from this game.

Prediction

Portugal 1-0 Iran

Portugal should be confident of winning their final group game against Iran. The Selecção das Quinas have already shown tremendous form in the first couple of matches and if the mercurial Cristiano Ronaldo turns up once again, Iran’s solid defence will be a piece of cake for the Iberian giants.

That being said, Iran have performed better as the tournament progressed and it will be interesting to see if they pull off in what will arguably be the biggest upset of this year’s FIFA World Cup so far.