A stoppage-time own goal from Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran their first victory in a World Cup finals since 1998.
Aziz Bouhaddouz Own Goal Wins Opening Game for Iran
Even Opening Half
Morocco started the game the strongest, going at the Iranian defence with a high intensity. Watford’s Nordin Amrabat was allowed to get forward on numerous occasions to cross but, despite all their possession, there were not too many clear-cut opportunities.
The best chance for the African side came in the 18th minute. Iran failed to deal with a corner and after a goal-mouth scramble in which Younes Belhanda and Medhi Benatia had shots blocked, Alireza Beiranvand was forced into an important save to keep the scores level.
Iran settled into the game following this scare. They still weren’t creating chances but were beginning to play much higher up the pitch and forcing Morocco to retreat into their own half.
The best chance of the opening half fell to their forward, Sardar Azmoun. The Rubin Kazan striker broke from the halfway line with his electrifying pace. A poor second touch, though, allowed Morocco defenders to surround him. He managed to get a shot away, but it was well saved by Munir, who then acrobatically turned away the rebound.
Similar Second Half
Despite Morocco having much more possession, Iran made sure the game was a much more even contest in the second half. Their confidence grew as the game went on and for much of the second period, they looked far more likely to snatch the win.
The closing stages of the game saw injuries for both teams. Firstly, Amrabat went off for Morocco after hitting his head when falling under a challenge. He was replaced by his younger brother, Sofyan. Omid Ebrahimi then went off for Iran after sustaining a large cut across his hip.
Hakim Ziyech went closest for Morocco in the second half, but his powerful drive was excellently tipped away by Beiranvand on the 80th minute.
However, the drama in the 95th minute. Aziz Bouhaddouz powered a header into his own goal from a whipped-in free kick to send Iranian fans into delirium.
The Last Word
Iran sit top of the group for a few hours now, until Spain take on Portugal. This put them in an excellent position regardless of the result in the second fixture.
Morocco, however, are in real trouble now. They looked extremely positive at the start of this game and looked like a team that could cause problems for Spain and Portugal. However, their second-half performance highlighted the weaknesses in their game, and they will now be glaringly obvious to their upcoming opponents.
The African side will need to produce something special in at least one of their remaining games to have even a glimmer of hope of reaching the knockout stages. Iran, however, just need to hold on for a draw, potentially, in one of their next games to perhaps produce the shock of the round.