The awe-inspiring Saint Petersburg Stadium will be the setting for Morocco and IR Iran’s first experience of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia roller coaster, a ride that is a little bit special for both of them.
The last time the Atlas Lions took part, it was two decades ago at France 1998, and under the tutelage of Herve Renard they are desperate to make the most of this opportunity.
IR Iran enter having reached successive World Cups for the very first time. With Carlos Queiroz set to end his seven years at the helm post-tournament, his charges will be equally motivated.
The three-time AFC Asian Cup winners will be without the suspended Saeid Ezatolahi, and Team Melli will also be sweating on Mehdi Taremi’s and Askhan Dejagah’s injuries. Morocco, meanwhile, will be hoping Nabil Dirar is passed fit.
This is the fifth time that IR Iran will play at a World Cup, but escaping the group stage remains an unfulfilled dream for their fans.
When they became the second team to reach Russia 2018, hopes were that they could change that, but being drawn in Group B has made this goal more challenging.
With Spain and Portugal to come, this meeting with Morocco is a real cup final.
After 20 years of waiting, June 15 marks Morocco’s overdue return to the global stage. But considering the opponents that lie in wait, it is no time to get lost in the occasion.
It’s out of the question to let three points escape them. As the only team to have qualified without conceding a goal, their strong defence and collective play will be key.
Did you know?
IR Iran were undefeated in sealing qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup, winning six and drawing four matches in Group A of the third round of Asian qualifying.
Morocco are currently on a run of 18 games unbeaten, including games against fellow World Cup hopefuls Serbia, Nigeria, Korea Republic and Egypt. Only Belgium (19) and Spain (20) have a better record going into Russia 2018.
June 15 (Local Time)
Morocco vs IR Iran (18:00)
Portugal vs Spain (21:00)