Morocco 0-1 Iran: 5 things we learned

Iran picked up their first World Cup win in 20 years on Friday evening when they nicked a late goal against Morocco.

REUTERS/Henry Romero

World Cup Group B kicked off on Friday with Carlos Queiroz’s Iran taking on Morrocco. 

With Spain and Portugal battling it out in the other fixture, this was a must-win game for the two teams if either was going to have anything more than an outside chance of scraping into the Round of 16. 

Despite flashes of attacking intent from both sides, the game seemed to be heading towards a stalemate until late drama sealed the three points for Iran.

After Iran won a free kick late in the game, they profited from Aziz Bouhaddouz’s decision to get his head on the ball which saw him put the ball into his own net. The result was harsh on the African side who had good chances in both halves of the game. 

Bouhaddouz’s own goal gave Iran their first win at a World Cup since 1998 and they now sit atop the group with Spain drawing 3-3 with Portugal later in the day.

Here are five things we learned from the game:

  1. 1 Amrabat is Morocco's secret weapon

    REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

    The Morrocan right wingback was the source of many of their attacks, making himself available on the right flank, and providing dangerous crosses for Ayoub El Kaabi to latch onto. 

    His overlapping runs meant that he was finding pockets of space behind the Iranian defence which, in turn, allowed him to pull back passes to players waiting on the edge of the box.

    This tactic nearly got Morocco a goal in the first half, when Amrabat pulled back a pass to Hakim Ziyech whose shot went just wide of the post. 

    When the 31-year-old clashed heads with an Iranian defender, Amrabat appeared to be concussed, leading to his substitution. 

    With news that he may miss the next few games for Morocco, this could be a huge blow for the North African side.

  2. 2 Tactical throw-ins

    REUTERS/Lee Smith

    Iran caused disarray in the ranks of the Moroccan defence through long throw-ins sent into their penalty box by Vahid Amiri. 

    Through packing the Iranian penalty box with taller players, Iran were able to cause problems in the opposition box. 

    On one occasion this nearly led to a goal: the ball being laid off to Sardar Azmoun. However, his shot was saved by keeper Munir Mohamedi.

    This tactic may prove useful throughout their group games and players like Azmoun will need to be carefully watched to prevent the Iranians from profiting.

  3. 3 Clash of the counterattacks

    REUTERS/Lee Smith

    Both teams operated by playing on the counterattack but Iran's breaks were faster and more fruitful in producing chances.

    With the Moroccan fullbacks pushing high up the pitch in support of their attack, space was left in behind for Sardar Azmoun and Alireza Jahanbakhsh to exploit. 

    Whilst the Moroccan counter may not have been as effective, they still caused the Iranian defence problems on the break through Amine Harit. 

    Their star player in midfield, whose natural ability with the ball at his feet saw him weave his way through their defensive lineup, caused problems for a porous Iranian defence throughout the game.

  4. 4 Azmoun is one to watch

    REUTERS/Pilar Olivares

    The player dubbed the 'Iranian Messi' showed glimpses of why he has been given the nickname during the first half of the match. 

    Making rampaging runs through the centre of the pitch, he split the Moroccan midfield in half time and time again. Whilst Ziyech was brilliant on the attack, he struggled to contain Azmoun for much of the game.

    The Iranian's attacking efforts nearly earned him a goal in the first half when he was put through by Jahanbakhsh but he failed to evade the keeper who made a double save to keep him out.

  5. 5 Wrong choice of tactics?

    REUTERS/Dylan Martinez

    Whilst El Kaabi was brilliant for Morocco and often shone from the front of the field, their ploy to lob the long ball up the pitch might not have been the best way to reap the best from him. 

    Playing the ball to his feet might have been a more productive tactic. El Kaabi showed throughout the game he could dribble through the Iranian defence and caused problems for them with his strength and pace with the ball at his feet.

    Yet, by playing the ball in the air, not only did he often lose the aerial duel and, therefore, possession, but the lack of disruption to the Iranian defence meant that he was less likely to score or create chances. 

    Going forward, Morocco may want to involve him more in the game, as he has proved that he is more productive when the ball is passed to his feet.

    Listen to the RealSport football writers discuss Group B in Kremlins in the Basement: RealSport’s daily World Cup podcast.

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