Iran vs Portugal – Monday, June 25, 19:00BST/20:00CEST/21:00 MSK – Mordavia-Arena, Saransk, Russia
Everything is still to play for in Group B with Iran hoping to upset Portugal to advance to the second stage of the tournament. The Iranians beat Morocco on matchday 1 and almost held Spain to a 0-0 draw on matchday 2 only to succumb to a 1-0 defeat.
Regardless, with Spain and Portugal drawing on matchday 1 Iran are still within reach of both nations. Three points against Portugal and Team Melli would advance to the next round.
Portugal, on the other hand, will have to collect at least one point to advance. Finishing first, however, could be key to avoid high flying Russia, who they would likely face if they finish second.
Thus far in the tournament Portugal have produced both the most memorable and most boring game. The 3-3 draw against rivals Spain was perhaps the most exciting game at the World Cup. Cristiano Ronaldo’s performance, in particular, stood out.
But the Seleção das Quinas are also dangerously dependent on the Real Madrid forward. Against Morocco, on matchday 2, Portugal collected the three points, but it was perhaps the most boring display of football throughout the tournament. “Portugal only destroy and don’t play football”, one disgruntled Morocco fan told the Futbolgrad Network. “They are a one-man team with no inspiration”, another fan shouted.
All of this is true, but Portugal tend to get the job done. Now, however, they are facing a team equally adapt of shutting job. Iran only conceded two goals in all of World Cup qualifying and were excellent in defence against both Morocco and Spain, which suggest that this will be a tightly fought affair with minimal offensive flair.
Iran vs Portugal – Players to look out for:
Cristiano Ronaldo #7 – Portugal (Real Madrid)
What can be said about Portugal’s star that hasn’t already been said the world over? Fresh from his fifth Champions League crown in May he provided a sublime display against Spain to single handily drag the Euro 2016 champions to a shared point against their neighbours and rivals. With four goals already under his belt, Ronaldo may now have an eye on the golden boot. Something that would add to his raft of personal trophies while also helping his national teammates to top the group at Spain’s expense.
Sardar Azmoun #20 – Iran (Rubin Kazan)
Sardar Azmoun will feel right at home against Spain. The 23-year-old attacking midfielder moved to Russia five years ago joining Rubin Kazan in the January 2013 from Sepahan’s youth squad. Working with legendary head coach Kurban Berdyev at both Rubin and FC Rostov Azmoun has scored 29 goals and 14 assists in 115 Russian Football Premier League games. A flexible attacking midfielder Azmoun has often been linked with a move to a major European side and the World Cup – he has already scored 23 goals in 33 games for Iran – and was excellent in Iran’s first game against Morocco where he was unplayable at times dissecting Iran’s defence at will it seemed.
Iran vs Portugal – Match Stats
- Iran and Portugal meet for the second time at a World Cup. Portugal beat Iran 2-0 at the 2006 FIFA World Cup in Germany.
- Portugal have won three out of their previous four matches against Asian teams. The only defeat came at the 2002 FIFA World Cup where they lost to host South Korea.
- Portugal’s 1-0 victory over Morocco was their first clean sheet in five World Cup matches.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Iran vs Portugal – 0-1
Iran vs Portugal – Lineups
Beiranvand – Hajsafi, Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, Rezeian – Ebrahimi – Ansarifard, Shojaei, Amiri, Jahanbaksh – Azmoun
Head Coach: Carlos Queiroz
Patricio – Pepe, Fonte, Soares, Guerreiro – Silva, Moutinho, Carvalho, Fernandes – Guedes, Ronaldo.
Head Coach: Fernando Santos
Manuel Veth is the owner and Editor in Chief of the Futbolgrad Network. He also works as a freelance journalist and among others works for the Bundesliga and Pro Soccer USA. He holds a Doctorate of Philosophy in History from King’s College London, and his thesis is titled: “Selling the People’s Game: Football’s transition from Communism to Capitalism in the Soviet Union and its Successor States,” which is available HERE. Originally from Munich, Manuel has lived in Amsterdam, Kyiv, Moscow, Tbilisi, London, and currently is located in Victoria BC, Canada. Follow Manuel on Twitter @ManuelVeth.