Morocco vs. Iran
|Date & Time||Friday June 15, 2018, 11:00 AM (EDT)|
The Line: Iran +292 / Morocco +131 / Draw +203 -- Over/Under: 2
Morocco and Iran meet Friday in the 2018 World Cup at Arena St Petersburg.
Morocco heads into its first World Cup since 1998 in terrific form, as this club hasn’t lost in 10 straight matches and is coming off a 3-1 blowout over Estonia. With an aggressive and smart defense that hasn’t allowed more than one goal in 10 straight matches, and an organized unit under coach Hervé Renard, there’s good reason to believe in the Atlas Lions as a tournament dark horse. Of course, Renard proved his worth a few years ago with Ivory Coast and is showing he has the pulse of this team, as they’re peaking at the right time. Morocco needs to find some firepower offensively in order to make advancing an even stronger possibility, but there are some young playmakers in Ayoub El Kaabi and Hakim Ziyech, who have found the net a lot in international play despite limited caps. There’s also a guy in Medhi Benatia, who has played on the big stage and will be able to provide that experience and keep guys calm under big match pressure. Nobody is picking Morocco to win the tournament, but this is a well coached side that could make some noise and could make it out of the group stages for the first time since 1986.
Iran is in the World Cup for the fourth time in six tries and has the advantage of already being in Russia about two weeks early due to a friendly match against Lithuania. Iran will be used to its surroundings sooner than any other team, and that could be an edge for Team Melli. Iran flexed its muscles defensively during qualifying and has pitched shutouts in two of its last three matches, but this is a club loaded with talent offensively and should be able to put pressure on the opposition. Alireza Jahanbakhsh and Sardar Azmoun are both dangerous with the ball, while Mehdi Taremi can takeover a game with his striking ability and Saman Ghoddos has really emerged these last few years with Östersunds FK. This has the potential to be an exciting team, but the problem is Iran doesn’t play the steepest of competition and doesn’t have that big match experience against quality teams. While others are playing friendly matches against Brazil, Germany and France, Iran is beating up on teams it should beat and is rarely tested. It’s not easy to prepare yourself for the best competition when you’re practicing against mediocrity.
There’s no previous meetings between these two sides.
Iran has the offensive talent to steal this game if it gets quality looks in the open field, but Morocco is the better coached club, plays defense and has been battle tested for these moments. The Atlas Lions are certainly a team I’ll be watching closely, as this is a dark horse that could sneak its way out of the group stages and provide some serious betting value. A victory is also needed here with giants such as Spain and Portugal on deck.
I’m backing Morocco to get the victory.