Iran’s hopes of qualification hang in the balance after a gut-wrenching 1-0 defeat to Spain in Kazan.
Carlos Queiroz’s side kept La Roja at bay for almost an hour, before a lucky finish from Diego Costa decided a fiercely-competitive fixture.
Fernando Hierro’s side need just a point from their final group game against Morocco to ensure their own graduation but he will be concerned about the difficulty with which his team struggled to break down Iran’s resolute defence.
Here are RealSport’s player ratings after a decisive night in Group B.
Ali Beiranvand – 7/10
Team Melli’s goalkeeper was solid throughout, save for a nervy stop in the second half that prevented Sergio Busquets’ shot from curling into the top corner. After palming the ball in front of him, Beiranvand reacted well to punch the ball to safety before Lucas Vasquez nipped in.
Ramin Rezaeian – 7/10
A solid display from the right back was undone only by a hashed clearance which deflected off Diego Costa for the winner. He responded well, however, instigating a number of attacks with his probing runs.
Morteza Pouraliganji – 7/10
A confident performance from the Al-Sadd star, who had Diego Costa wrapped up all game save for one inopportune moment.
Majid Hosseini – 7/10
The birthday boy did well to block a goal-bound shot from David Silva on 19 minutes before going on to make a number of timely headers throughout the game. A breezy display from a man who only made his international debut last month.
Ehsan Hajsafi – 6/10
The left-back struggled to incite much in the way of an attacking threat and was put under continued pressure by Vasquez and Dani Carvajal’s overlaps. He was replaced by Milad Mohammadi late on.
Omid Ebrahimi – 6/10
Made a few decent headers in the first fifteen minutes but was quietly overrun by a celestial Spanish midfield.
Karim Ansarifard – 8/10
Iran’s number ten performed his defensive duties scrupulously in the first half, before coming to life in the second. His volley on 53 minutes looked to have gone in, sending half of the stadium into hysterics before the crowd realised it had hit the side-netting only. A skilful, impressive display.
Saeid Ezatolahi – 8/10
Performed manfully as a defensive shield for Hosseini and Pouraliganji. Lashed in what looked like was an equaliser just after the hour mark, only for VAR to intercede with an offside decision.
Vahid Amiri – 7/10
A bubbling threat throughout, the Persepolis winger made the byline repeatedly in the opening stages. He swung a fabulous cross into the box in the last ten minutes, nutmegging Pique to land a ball right on the head of Mehdi Taremi. Much to his chagrin, the chance was wasted horribly.
Mehdi Taremi – 6/10
Set his stall out with a crashing challenge on Sergio Ramos after four minutes before breaking the offside trap fifteen minutes later to race free into the box. Sent a panicked cross to nobody in particular, setting the tone for a frustrating evening which lacked composure. Taremi wasted Iran’s best chance of the night, heading Amiri’s last-gasp cross well over the bar.
Sardar Azmoun – 6/10
The Rubin Kazan striker endured a difficult night up against Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, neither of whom gave him a sniff. Worked hard, for precious little reward.
Milad Mohammadi – 7/10
Gave Iran’s left side some much-needed impetus when he came on midway through the second half. Made a bizarre tumble before delivering a long throw in the dying moments.
Alireza Jahanbakhsh – 5/10
Much-hyped before the tournament, Jahanbakhsh was thrown on for the last fifteen minutes but struggled to make much of an impact.
Saman Ghoddos – 5/10
Not on long enough to make any difference to the game.
David de Gea – 7/10
The Manchester United stopper barely featured with his only contribution of note arriving in the 94th minute as he punched excellently from a dangerous Iranian cross.
Dani Carvajal – 7/10
Fit again after hobbling off in the Champions League final, Carvajal got forward ably as his teammates turned the screw. He plunged into the Iranian box on several occasions but his final delivery was lacking.
Gerard Pique – 7/10
The Barcelona icon found himself creeping towards the Iranian box as Spain struggled to create, especially in the second half. Came close to opening the scoring with a bobbled header that was hacked off the line.
Sergio Ramos – 8/10
A wonderfully unabashed character registering a typically arrogant performance. Dominated Azmoun totally throughout in what might have been the easiest of his 30 tournament games with Spain.
Jordi Alba – 8/10
Mr. Consistency on the left, Alba raided forward incessantly. A typically excellent showing, full of nous and intelligence.
Sergio Busquets – 7/10
Busquets’ qualities probably weren’t needed for this game but he was lankily elegant in the middle of the park. A curling effort in the second half nearly fooled Iran’s goalkeeper but he was quiet otherwise.
David Silva – 6/10
After creating three chances in the first game alone, David Silva might have expected to have a similar impact this time around. He largely failed to penetrate a blanket Iranian defence, with a hooked shot over the bar proving his most noteworthy contribution.
Andres Iniesta – 8/10
The former Barcelona star might have looked tired and grey in Kazan but he was instrumental in the build-up to Spain’s opener, jinking away from two challenges before feeding the ball into Costa. A performance of crumbling majesty.
Isco – 7/10
The Real Madrid phenomenon provided some of the games’ brightest moments. A wonderful round-the-corner pass for Iniesta had the crowd on their feet at the hour mark but Isco drifted out of the game completely in the second period.
Diego Costa – 6/10
Totally anonymous throughout with an alleged stamp on Beiranavand the only incident of note during the first half. Costa – undeservingly perhaps – scored the winner when Rezaiean’s clearance hit his shin and bounced into the net.
Lucas Vasquez – 6/10
A favourite of Zinedine Zidane at Real Madrid, Vasquez was a surprise inclusion here. He offered width but not much else before being hooked off in favour of clubmate Marco Asensio.
Koke – 6/10
The Atletico Madrid man came on for Iniesta and helped control the Spanish tempo from deep as the game died off.
Marco Asensio – 5/10
Given twelve minutes to impress on the right flank after coming on for the ineffectual Vasquez, Asensio didn’t really get on the ball
Rodrigo – 5/10
Not on long enough to offer any kind of threat.
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