MOROCCO v IRAN
Live on ITV. Friday, June 15. Kick-off 4pm.
WITH Portugal and Spain still to come for both of these sides, one of them could be effectively packing their bags before the tournament has really begun. Defeat for either would leave them needing to pull off a miracle to extend their stay in Russia beyond the group stages.
Former Cambridge manager Herve Renard leads Morocco in to battle and the Africans may well have stood a chance making it to the knock-out stages had the draw been a little bit kinder to them. They were tidy in qualifying, conceding just once in eight matches but a lack of firepower could blight their chances of making an impact in Group B.
Having said that, Spain's internecine strife and Portugal's ageing squad could present the Moroccans with a chance to spring a surprise if they can go in to those fixtures off the back of a win over Iran.
There's an even more familiar face in the Iranian dugout in former Manchester United assistant Carlos Queiroz, who has presided over the Middle Eastern outfit since 2011. Typically a 4-5-1 kind of team, Iran better look set up not to lose rather than to win. They kept an impressive 14 clean sheets in 18 qualifying matches but will miss defensive midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi who is suspended for the opener.
On paper there's not much to separate the sides and the first goal could be crucial. Morocco just shade it for me and look backable at 13-10 with Bet365.
On the goals front both sides averaged under 2.5 across their qualifying campaigns and that looks the most likely to land as both teams aim to avoid defeat in what looks like their best chance of picking up a point.
Ajax midfielder Hakim Zayech is most likely to break the deadlock for Morocco. The 25-year-old has a one in two record at international record and has a growing reputation as dead-ball expert. He's also on penalties so worth backing at slightly higher than 7-1 with Marathonbet.
- Morocco to win (13-10, bet365)
- Morocco 2 Iran 0 (9-1, Betstars)
- Hakim Ziyech (Morocco) (71-10, Marathonbet)